4 out of 4 stars
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Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane is a novel about a girl named Natalie Chapman who has to protect her mother and mentally challenged brother from her abusive and alcoholic stepfather. She has several dreams in life, but she knows that she will do anything, including abandoning her dreams, to keep them safe. It is not easy to keep them safe, but she will do so. At the same time, she wants to avenge the death of her part-aboriginal father, which is why she needs to find out the truth about how he died. When she turns seventeen, she falls for her boss who is a married man, and her life gets even more complicated.
This novel truly delves into the psychological portions of domestic abuse. Natalie hates her stepfather, but she doesn't know how to address the situation because she doesn't want to hurt her mother by taking away a source of income. He tries to break both of them down, but she is determined to stand strong. Her brother idolizes him because he doesn't know any better, but Natalie also protects him from realizing that her stepfather could care less about him.
The one thing that definitely bothered me in this novel was her relationship with her boss, a middle-aged married man. I can't blame Natalie for liking him because she was a minor at the time. It was definitely uncomfortable to read, but it was an interesting and sadly historically accurate story addition. I do wish that either the affair had been included in the summary, or that it had taken up less of the story time since it was so uncomfortable. Out of all the details of Natalie's life throughout the book, this was my least favorite.
My favorite detail in the novel was Natalie's ties to her own family. I loved reading about her protecting her younger siblings, her brother, and her mother from her stepfather. Her fierce love and protection for them were what allowed her mother to eventually grow a backbone as well. I love stories where families truly love each other, and this is definitely one of them.
The book had no editing errors or formatting errors that I picked up on while reading it. The novel was not overwhelmingly fast-paced, and the plot was engaging throughout. The novel also has historical fiction elements, and the world-building did not disappoint. I could not pick up on any historical discrepancies. It was definitely interesting to read about Australia's discrimination against the aborigines during the mid-1900s.
I rated this book 4 out of 4 stars. The plot was well-structured, the story was detailed, the characters were unique, there were no grammar or formatting errors, and the historical facts seemed to be quite accurate, and I learned a lot about Australia. I loved Natalie, her mother, and even her brother grow throughout the novel. The only thing that bothered me was the affair, but it was still an important part of the novel and was still a reasonable historical event.
I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction or family growth and hardship stories.
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