In brief: Brianna is trying her best to run her farm and be a mother, but over a scorching summer, cracks appear. Is her marriage on track? And what happened to her mother who disappeared so long ago?
The good: Combines mystery with family life to make for an enthralling read.
The not-so-good: The description of the heat is all too real in an Australian summer!
Why I chose it: Enjoy Aussie rural stories – thanks Allen & Unwin for the copy.
Publisher: Arena Allen & Unwin
Setting: Country Western Australia and South Australia
Rating: 9 out of 10
The start of an early summer heat wave was the perfect time to read Fleur McDonald’s Suddenly One Summer – can’t you just feel the sizzling temperature portrayed on the cover? I felt like reading something close to home and this story of family and mystery in country Australia was just the ticket. It’s an easy read, great for lazy days when all you are capable of is lying under the air conditioning. What made Suddenly One Summer stand out from the pack is the wonderful combination of rural life with a mystery that seemingly has no connection to the characters.
It’s the middle of summer in rural Western Australia when we meet Brianna Donahue, a farmer and mother. She’s got it tough – her husband is a fly in, fly out lawyer in the city and she’s looking after her sons alone most of the time. There’s the possibility that fire could strike any moment…and now one of her sons is missing. It leaves Brianna almost at breaking point, but she’s got to keep going for herself, her farm and her family. Meanwhile, thousands of kilometres away in country South Australia, a farmer has reported missing sheep. When detective Dave Burrows investigates, it seems to be more than that with the old man talking about a woman in the shed and wool missing. But the family is much more mysterious than that – how could a young girl be forgotten in a country town? What does this have to do with Brianna?
The great thing about Suddenly One Summer is that it’s pretty much impossible to predict the twist until it’s staring the reader in the face. The two narratives are immensely enjoyable with a number of different issues facing both Dave and Brianna. There definitely wasn’t the sense of frustration that I sometimes get when reading dual narratives of preferring one to the other. I enjoyed reading about Dave and partner Kim’s life in a country town just as much as I did about Brianna’s life between family and farm. Both main characters were strong and fascinating – Dave with his powers of deduction and Brianna’s fierce determination to do the best for her children and her property. I must admit that I’d like to know more about Kim – she sounds very wise, plus she is an excellent baker!
As the two stories come closer together, the narrative picks up to a frantic pace, almost like a wildfire. I defy anyone not to keep reading until the very end! As I’ve mentioned, the twist is clever and the growing sense of unease as events of the novel begin to make more sense if palpable. While Fleur McDonald has a wonderful way with telling rural stories in a special way, it was the mystery that made this a stellar read in my eyes. I felt that it showed off her skills as a writer even more, luring the reader into a sense of safety and then hitting us with some truths that made events even more shocking! A great summer read that won’t disappoint.