4 out of 4 stars
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To be honest, I was slightly hesitant when selecting Aussie Bush Yarns by Jennie Linnane, as I tend to prefer longer novels with a single storyline. Other collections of short stories have often felt disjointed to me, highlighting my preference of getting to know the characters and location setting more deeply than a short story typically allows. I am happy to report that this compilation did not cause the same reaction; in fact, I enjoyed it so much that I am rating this book 4 out of 4 stars.
The primary difference in the experience of reading this book is that despite each story focusing on a new set of characters and events, they all have a unifying theme. The stories are all set in the (fictional) town of Yabby Creek, in Australia’s wild and rugged bush country. The characters in the stories all share a similar cultural outlook – one that develops naturally from the rustic and rural setting, and the residents’ dependence on local weather patterns, knowledge of wildlife, and responsibilities on the homestead.
Even with all of these commonalities, each story is unique in its focus, and the selection provides a fascinating mix of human emotion. The language is weighty and descriptive, and each character comes across the page in a rich and vivid way. It is obvious that the author is a close observer of human nature, and she is able to depict the nuances of multigenerational families with authentic dialogue and scene descriptions. The fact that all the stories take place in the same location creates a feeling in the reader that he or she is getting to know a whole community of people, one family at a time.
Some of the topics of the stories include romance and jealousy, farm labor and toil, grandparents and their relationships with their grandchildren, and the natural dangers and predators one encounters in the bush country. In a few short pages, the stories relay profound joy or deep despair, as well as nearly every emotion in between. The details are carefully chosen, and each sentence contributes to the stories’ larger point. I was also impressed with the thorough editing, as I found no spelling or grammatical errors. At no time did the book feel like a chore to read, and the wide range of topics kept me turning the pages from one story to the next.
The experience of reading this book is something like a mosaic, with each individual story filling in a piece of the larger image of the community of Yabby Creek. Though it is a fictional town, it is clearly based on real places, and the characters read as authentic in their imperfect humanity. Readers who are likely to enjoy this collection are those that appreciate the culture of small, rural communities, and who find beauty in the seemingly mundane experiences of hardworking folks. There are lessons buried in these pages, reminding us to appreciate our home, our family, and the simple things in life.
Aussie Bush Yarns
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