4 out of 4 stars
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Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane follows the story of young Natalie as she recounts the events that happen the year that she turned 16. This can be seen in the subtitle of this book since it says, “There lies ahead a long, rough road for a girl fighting discrimination, seeking revenge, and pursuing a career in landscape painting.” Like the subtitle states, Natalie went through a very rough time during that year, but because she didn't give up makes her a very strong, independent young woman. I honestly don't think that most of the teens in this day and age would even come close to making an impact as she did.
Throughout the book, it can be seen that Natalie doesn’t have a very good relationship with her stepfather. Alex is very gruff and belligerent in how he speaks to her, to the point that it culminates in perhaps the worst beating of her life. However, it is because of this incident that her mother finally starts speaking up again, instead of taking abuse like she has for many years. Still, because of the circumstances that Natalie grew up, she is far more mature than most individuals her age, including the boys.
Luckily enough her employers, the Glovers, are kind enough to her. Mrs. Glover even begins teaching her how to paint and has her work on lines with her. It is during one of these readings that Natalie makes connections due to similar racist treatment, considering the fact that the character is Jewish and she’s part Aborigine. Mr. Glover’s relationship with her is hardly platonic.
Without going too far into detail, Bruce Glover and Natalie have an affair. They do try to stop, but it is for naught. I think that a lot of reasons why Natalie continues to be with Bruce despite everything is that she is far too mature for the boys her age and she is conflicted by the fact that this relationship is one of the few positive ones she has with men in her life. It will be moments like this that will stay prevalent in her life. I don't want to go into too much detail, as I fear that I will spoil the book.
One of the best parts of this story is the connection of family. It shows that when times are hard, you can count on those around you. It also accurately depicted how abuse in a family can tear things apart and weaken the strongest players in the equation. Those are just some of the things that really stood out to me.
As for what of the aspects of the book, they may also be triggers to some individuals. This includes marital abuse, child abuse, alcoholism, near rape situations, infidelity, loss of a child, racism, and inappropriate relations with a minor. Some of the biggest problems being the rape, abuse, and alcoholism since those are still on the high rise in current times. These aspects are also not sugar coated at all and could be viewed as far too much for some people.
Ironbark Hill to me is a well-written book that covers the life of a strong, young woman that overcomes everything that is thrown at her. Mostly, she could be viewed as a feminist since everything she did was to benefit her family and go against how society viewed her. The writing is wonderfully descriptive and it catches every event in great detail. There were some words that were spelled kind of strange, but that might be due to the Australian dialect and slang that they used in the 1950s.
Considering everything above, I would have to give Ironbark Hill 4 out of 4 stars. One complaint that I have is that the epilogue part seemed disjointed and not needed. However, like I said, this book is very good and detailed. Young women that are mature should be encouraged to read this, considering the fact that Natalie is only 16 when everything happens.
By reading this, people could have a discussion about how relevant the themes are in today’s society from a Sociology perspective and from a psychological perspective. For instance, how differently would Natalie be treated now instead of the 1950s? Would things be better or worse? As for the psychology side, how would Natalie and her siblings be affected down the years? Would Irma have had a better chance to get away from Alex in the current times since women have better support now? Just some things to consider as a reader peruses this book.
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