4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Ironbark Hill follows Natalie Chapman through her 16th year of life. As she grows into her new age, new emotions and a new willingness to act rise up in her as she finds herself not only drawn to the romantic infatuations of her age, but also a passion towards getting justice for her father and protecting her brother and mother from her abusive alcoholic stepfather. Through the year, she learns secrets of her family’s past while balancing her new desires and a passion towards art. Though she is poor and an aboriginal, Natalie’s journey is a classic coming-of-age novel with just the right amount of sweetness, sass and surprises.
It really surprised me how much I enjoyed this novel. Coming of age novels are pretty hit or miss for me and hardly ever do they really impress me due to there being so many on the market and so many creative ways of telling this type of story. However, the classic narrative and simplicity of this novel is what really made it work. It reeked of believability. There was an authenticity in the voice of the novel, one that stayed true to both the character introduced as well as the character in the end who has grown in so many ways.
The thing that works best for this novel was that it stayed away from the cliche. Natalie is growing into her looks with a nasty sister, a slow brother, a loving mother, and an abusive stepfather. These things could have become rather overdone and used but instead the characters transcended their stereotypes and became well-developed extensions of Natalie’s exterior. While she grows up, her development is compared to those around her. She can imagine things her brother can’t, reach goals her mother never could, value things beyond the exterior beauty like her sister, and want things beyond a drink or the simple life like her step-father.
Her family life is contradicted by the wealthy family which she works, learns and ultimately loves. This is where she finds herself, not fitting into the extravagance, yet yearning for the culture which art and intelligence brings. Instead of being a story where she transcends where she’s from, Natalife refuses to give up her family background and simplistic life while also broadening her horizons. Natalie is very likeable in these moments and the natural development of her character feels very natural. Since the tone and voice of the novel are tied into her, the entire novel is an easy, likeable read as a result.
There were only two things I had a minor bone of contention with. First, the ending was almost too neatly tied up. It broke the tone of the novel a bit in my opinion since everything leading up to it is rather beautifully broken, like life. To have everything come together in the final pages felt rushed and like the readers needed more validation and closure than what I personally think was needed. As a side note, I am the type of reader who wants to draw my own conclusions and find my own closure so that is PURELY an opinion that many people would disagree with. The second thing I disliked about this novel was the description on Amazon. When reading the online summary I thought this would be rather campy and cliche, but the novel itself is so much more. It’s about self-discovery, love, hatred, learning to understand people unlike yourself, and so much more. But, I don’t really know how to summarize how incredible this is since it honestly reads like a well-written prose version of a sixteen years diary.
Overall, I rate Ironbark Hall by Jennie Linnane 4 out of 4 stars. Linnane really writes in such a captivating way that it just enthralls the reader throughout Natalie’s journey. I never thought I could read a paragraph about a cow, enjoy it, and even develop a care for it; yet here I am, and I very much so enjoyed the cow story line. Natalie is an incredible protagonist without being a typical teenage protagonist. She’s not overly dramatic, or developing superpowers, nor is she always the one in the right, but overall she is kind and smart with an emerging passion anyone who has ever felt a calling towards almost anything can relate to. I highly recommend this novel.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like hanhas11's review? Post a comment saying so!