In brief: Silver and her mother Ishtar have led a nomadic existence. Just as things start to be settling down at Hope Farm and Silver makes friends, drama unfolds and her life changes forever.
The good: Beautifully written, Peggy Frew gets the atmosphere of the ‘hippie farm’ and Silver’s teenage frustrations just right.
The not-so-good: It took me two days to start it because I was so busy!
Why I chose it: Liked the sound of the story. Thanks to Scribe for the copy.
Publisher: Scribe Publications
Setting: Australia (mainly country Victoria and Queensland)
My rating: 9 out of 10
Isn’t the cover of Hope Farm gorgeous? I love the way it looks almost 3D and the earth/leaf litter motif is quite symbolic of many people in the book, trying to return to what they believe a natural existence to be. But the real bonus is that the contents of Hope Farm are just as brilliant. I loved this mesmerising story of Silver and her mother Ishtar, who lead a somewhat unconventional existence in the mid-1980s.
Some would call Ishtar a hippie, as she’s lived in ashrams on and off since Silver was born, plus she’s into the whole free love thing. She did vegetarianism and yoga before it was cool. But to Silver, Ishtar is somewhat of a mystery. Silver, now a teenager, longs for somewhere to be call home and be settled instead of moving from place to place. When Ishtar announces they’re moving from Queensland to Hope Farm in Victoria with her new boyfriend, Silver gets a chance to stay somewhere for a little while. Sure, she still gets called ‘hippie shit’ at school and only has one friend (outside school only) in Ian, but there are good things. There’s the annoying little pseudo sister in Jindi, the mother figure of Val and the crush worthy Dan. It looks like life could be stable in the Hope Farm community. But then things start to get complex. Ishtar’s boyfriend Miller brings a wife to Hope Farm and things get more complex, culminating in a night of terror and devastation none of the community will forget. It’s the night Silver loses the last of her childhood and sends her off on a life path she never thought possible.
Hope Farm is beautifully constructed novel and expertly shows Silver’s hurt, confusion and pain as she grows up knowing she’s different and desperately wanting what the other kids have – a home, routine and stability. It’s a coming of age story where the final part is ripped off brutally like a Band-Aid. What I also liked was how the reader got to see what happened to Silver as she grew into adulthood and dealt with the fateful events of the final night at Hope Farm. Peggy Frew also let the reader into the world of Ishtar with interspersed sections ‘written’ by her, detailing her journey from pregnancy to Hope Farm. I loved these as they gave a voice and perspective to Ishtar’s life which Silver didn’t have. They’re also written in an immature, childish hand (complete with punctuation errors and spelling mistakes) which made me feel sorry for her, being thrust into an adult world before she was ready for it (somewhat like Silver).
The drama in Hope Farm builds slowly, but the reader is ultimately rewarded as the finale is frantic. All the small dramas tie together to form a huge event that affects everyone. I think it is made more powerful by knowing the characters intimately by this stage. There were some I was instantly worried about (Jindi who is cute, even though she’s annoying and continually dripping snot; Ian, Silver’s friend with a turn of phrase like a 50’s movie star and Dan, possibly the most ‘normal’ person at Hope Farm). Of course, I had to cross my fingers and hope (no pun intended) for Miller’s downfall. Miller was just plain creepy (the language Frew uses to describe him sent a shiver down my spine) and every move of his was questionable. It seemed like he had plans to become a cult leader (and probably would have if he wasn’t so damn lazy).
I found myself racing through the book once I got past the first 50 pages as there’s so many interesting characters with stories to tell and is written in such a way that you can easily visualise the story. Highly recommended.