3 out of 4 stars
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Ever since its inception as a penal colony, individuals and families from all over the world have immigrated to Australia for a variety of reasons. Once there, they are introduced to a life that is both amazing and unique. Life in Australia is far from easy, however. Inhabitants of this vast country deal with the elements, the wildlife, and like everywhere else, their fellow men and women. Walkabout Creek by Jane Paul is the story of one such immigrant and how a single incident in a bar affected his family for generations to come.
Patrick O’Hara hopped on a merchant ship headed for Australia after an altercation in a bar in Ireland. Running from the police, he started a new life down under. Although he didn't know anything about mining (or any other industry in Australia), his hard work and eagerness to learn helped him succeed in this new land. This historical fiction novel follows O’Hara as he not only learns the ropes in Australia, but has a family, goes to war, and much more. Not stopping there, this book follows O’Hara’s children and grandchildren through hardship, horrors, and heartbreak.
What makes this book so amazing is the snapshot of Australia that the author gives the reader. For those that haven’t been to Australia, or those that don’t have a good idea of the nuances of Australian culture throughout the last century, this book both informs and entertains. What I liked the best about this book was how the author could mix the very culture of Australia with a compelling, generation-based plot. Sometimes it's difficult to touch so many aspects of a country in a book like this and still maintain a viable plot line throughout. For example, the book covers aspects of Australia’s involvement in World War 2, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, cattle ranching, natural disasters, personal romances, immigration, mining, and even murder trials! Although that may seem like a lot, it fits seamlessly in O’Hara’s family story.
There were two major points I disliked about this book. First, if you are looking for a read that has nonstop action and adventure, this isn’t it. Don’t get me wrong, it is interesting and full of interpersonal conflict, but there isn’t much action to speak of. Second, and what I disliked the most, was that the book was far from professionally edited. Throughout the novel there were copious amounts of grammatical, spelling, and other errors. This book definitely needs another round of intensive editing before it is ready for mass consumption.
I’m not usually a person who is captivated by stories of family drama and interpersonal conflict, but Walkabout Creek definitely captured my attention. From the descriptions of adventure in faraway places to the unique challenges that Australia brings, Paul had me wishing I could experience some of the locations in the book for myself. For this reason alone, I have no problems giving the book 3 out of 4 stars. I am taking off one star for the lackluster editing, but were the book to have been error free, I probably would have given it full marks. I definitely recommend this book to any reader that is interested in historical fiction mixed with family drama. If neither of these genres are up your alley, or if you need grammatical perfection in your books, you can probably skip this one for the time being.
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