A quick rundown… The story of Miki across two time periods – fighting against the Vietnam war in the 1970s, and trying to be a single mother in 1950s Australia.
Strengths: Original story, lovely Australian feel.
Weaknesses: Make sure you check the time period at the start of each chapter until you’re familiar with which characters fit in where.
Why I read it: Sent to me by Harlequin – thank you!
Pages: 379 (ARC)
Setting: Queensland, Australia
Rating: 8 out of 10
It’s always refreshing to read a new Australian author. As an Aussie myself, there’s always something comforting and cosy reading about a familiar setting. Jan Murray captures the feeling of the Australian bush perfectly (right down to the rainforest scent) in her debut book, Goodbye Lullaby.
The novel covers two periods of 20th century of Australian history that haven’t been covered in depth – unmarried mothers being forced to give up their children in the 1950s to avoid ‘shame’ and the conscription of young men to fight in Vietnam in the 1970s. We read about these events through the eyes of Caroline (Miki) Patrick and her former best friend, Jude. The narrative initially jumps between the two time periods to hint at the reader what was occurring before settling in the 1950s to reveal just what broke up the friendship between Miki and Jude. It then moves back to the 1970s where Caroline is an anti-war campaigner, running the Resistance Bookshop in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane and secretly smuggling men avoiding the draft overseas. She is wanted by the police, but a hero to many others as she’s shown the devastation to the Vietnamese people in her successful work as a photographer.
The book has tragic overtones, interspersed with humourous moments and strong messages about free will and fighting for what you believe in. Jude’s character brings a lot of the light relief- she’s the blunt, funny one to Miki’s serious, worried character. Jude is pivotal to helping Miki discover what she wants, even if it doesn’t always have the best outcomes. I would have liked to read some more about Jude’s ‘missing years’ – from runaway schoolgirl to university lecturer – how did she get there? I would also have liked to see some more exploration about Bernie (Miki’s friend and confidante) and her stolen child by the ‘Aboriginal Protection Board’ in the 1950s. There’s also Rex, freedom fighter and ex-US Marine, who really fits Jude’s tag of ‘sexy Rexy’ as well as having a sobering story to tell. Perhaps there’s room for another book? I hope so. As a younger Australian, I’d like to know more about these darker events in our history so that we don’t make the same mistake twice.
I read an ARC copy of this book, and I liked being able to see just how thorough the editors are when fact checking. The plane that one of the characters leaves by is a Boeing 707 and another character watches ‘its props spinning’ but apparently the Boeing 707 had no props. Not something I’d think about (although medical errors get me riled), but it’s great to see that those kinds of things are considering in the editing process.
Original with important messages, Goodbye Lullaby is both sobering and uplifting. Fantastic debut.