The good: Barbara Hannay’s books are full of soul. You can picture yourself right there in her fictional world.
The not-so-good: Oliver, you’re a tool.
Why I chose it: Thanks to Penguin Australia – I will never say no to a Barbara Hannay book.
Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)
Setting: Queensland, Australia
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Barbara Hannay’s books are without fail, a breath of fresh air for me. If I’m feeling stressed or just looking for a book that I know will be wonderful without even reading a word, her novels are a go to. I love the combination of the Queensland setting (lush and tropical) with characters who only want the best for themselves and their loved ones. Naturally, The Country Wedding falls into this category with its spring, light filled cover. Don’t be worried that it is all about weddings though – it’s about the impact of weddings on the couple and those who love them.
If you’ve read The Grazier’s Wife, you will know Flora Drummond, sister to Seth and daughter of Jackie. If you haven’t, that’s perfectly okay because Flora was a minor character in The Grazier’s Wife and everything that is relevant is explained. For the fans of the previous books, you get to say hi to Charlie and Alice again. Flora is an exceptionally talented musician who has come to Burralea to practise for a role in the Queensland symphony orchestra. She’s also come to escape her abusive former partner Oliver, but she doesn’t want anyone to know this. It’s with deep reluctance that she tells local policeman Mitch her troubles. But Mitch has his own problems – jilted at the altar and now human bones have appeared on Seth’s new property. The discovery makes state news, which leads Hattie to return to the town she departed so abruptly after a wedding. Can she and former owner Joe shed light on what happened?
Both Flora and Hattie are lovely main characters, despite the decades between them. I enjoyed both their stories equally as Hattie faces her old love after many decades and Flora fights an increasing attraction to Mitch which could just be remnants of a teenage crush. (Or that’s what she tells herself). This story is not just about the romance though. It’s about becoming part of a community that loves you and looks out for you, as both Flora and Hattie discover. It’s about protection, support and helping each other. Flora and Hattie are quite similar, thinking themselves big city women who left the country far behind. But they both have kind hearts and the willingness to help that is revered in small communities. I liked their unlikely friendship as much as I enjoyed their paths to happiness.
Barbara Hannay creates characters that are different from each other, real and unique. I enjoyed reading about the minor characters just as much. Who would have guessed the bane of Mitch’s police life, elderly lady Edith, was so smart and caring? Father Jonno I feel has a few more stories up his sleeve – how did he get to Burralea and his post? I’d love to read more about him and this humid oasis.
I’m a big fan of multiple narratives across history and the story of Hattie’s mother and aunt didn’t disappoint. Shanghai in the late 1930s and during war time came alive for me, rich with detail and excitement. The complex relationships that went on were a bonus!
Rich and lush, Barbara Hannay’s stories are always a joy. If you’re looking for a book to warm your heart, The Country Wedding is just right.