Strengths: It’s fun, light and different – how much chick lit is set on an iron ore wharf?
Weaknesses: Some may not like the swearing of one character.
Pages: 289 (eBook ARC)
Publisher: Bantam/Random House
Setting: Australia (Perth and the Pilbara)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Last year, my mother read a book called The Girl in the Steel Capped Boots by Loretta Hill and strongly suggested I read it. Like most kids, I don’t always listen to my mother and tucked it away for later. Fast forward to early January 2013, when I told my mum I was reading this book by the same author, she couldn’t wait to: a) read my copy and b) see what I thought. So Mum, I loved this book and I must read the other book soon!
Western Australia has been having a mining boom for several years now, and it’s pleasing to see a book set in amongst the camps and construction work. Wendy is Perth raised, but worked as a safety officer on various mining sites. After finding out incidentally that her father may not be her biological dad, she follows a path to bring her to her real father. She ends up working on a wharf construction in W.A.’s Pilbara, near Cape Lambert (a real place, all of towns Hill mentions – Karratha, Wickham, Cossack, Roebourne – are all towns of the Pilbara region). Wendy is met with a certain degree of suspicion at the camp – she’s wearing the enemy’s uniform and she wants to change things to make them slower (but safer). She is met with wariness by the other few female employees (Lena, an engineer, is the main character from The Girl in the Steel Capped Boots) and given a broken down donga without air conditioning (a crime in summer!). Gradually, Wendy makes friends with Lena, Sharon and Cobber and catches the eye of Gavin. In the midst of their wary circling of each other, Gavin and Wendy have a lot of drama to deal with – fights, safety mishaps, weather and a mysterious man.
This book is more than a romance – in fact, romance takes a back seat most of the time. It’s a book describing what is in a way daily life for Australians working ‘up north’. It’s a different portrayal of ‘FIFOs’ (fly in, fly out workers) than what is seen in the media – men behaving badly with a lot of cash to splash. This book shows how the focus is on work – and sometimes it can be dangerous. I liked also how Hill brought the weather into it, as summer can bring all sorts of nasty events with it. It also explains why there is so much focus on buildings being strong enough (or in the case of Nickol Bay Hospital in Karratha, half underground) to withstand strong winds and rain.
Wendy is a likeable character, despite her job requiring her to change work practices for the men. She is strong enough to withstand to hostile atmosphere, yet is still feminine. The subplot of finding her father doesn’t overtake the novel and take away perspective from the setting. Gavin is a good hero, nice but still with his faults. His calm demeanour is in contrast to some of the other male characters, such as Carl (favourite word unprintable), Fish (always looking to skive off to go fishing) and Cobber (gentle giant who loves his food).
The second half of this novel was edge of your seat drama – I literally had sit down and finish it straightaway. One of the pairings was a little surprising, so it will be interesting to see if another girl returns to the Pilbara for a sequel.
I loved this book and thought it was a well written tribute to a part of Australia I’m pretty familiar with. I thought Hill got it down pat – the red dirt, the heat, the seafood. The safety and machinery parts were clearly explained and didn’t take up too much detail. It’s very Aussie and a lot of fun with some funny moments. Definitely worth reading!