REVIEW: The Cowgirl by Anthea Hodgson

In brief: Teddy’s life is destined to be simple: live and work on the farm with her grandmother Deirdre. But then Deirdre announces a plan to dig up her old house with archaeologist Will and on digging up the past nothing is simple for either of them…

The good: I really enjoyed the flashbacks to Deirdre’s youth.

The not-so-good: Sometimes I wish that Teddy could have been just a touch more forthcoming or adventurous.

Why I chose it: Loved The Drifter. Thanks Penguin for the copy.

Year: 2018

Pages: 358

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)

Setting: Rural Western Australia

Rating: 8 out of 10

The Cowgirl by Anthea Hodgson isn’t just a gorgeous cover. It’s an in-depth exploration of the things that hold us back, whether you’re young or old, set in a small farming community in Western Australia. It also has the added bonus of a great dual narrative, set in both the 1950s and present day. It’s a gentle read that comes together to pack a punch as threads come together, secrets are exposed and the characters are forced to make decisions.

Teddy lives on the farm with her grandmother Deirdre. Her father has died and her mother has gone back to the city to live. Teddy tried university in the city, but came back and is firmly under Deirdre’s wing. Teddy rarely leaves the farm and shuns the spotlight. Whatever she has to hide won’t come to light while Deirdre is around to protect her. Her grandmother hasn’t had the easiest of lives – she too, has worked on the farm nearly all her life, but Deirdre has accepted her fate and grumpily accepts it. But one day Deirdre announces a plan to dig up the house of her youth that her father destroyed in a drunken rage and invites archaeologist Will to lead the dig. Will has a few secrets of his own, but it’s Teddy who he is instantly attracted to. He tries to convince Teddy to come out of her shell with mixed results. Meanwhile, Deirdre’s youth is explored as to why she made those choices.

The Cowgirl was a slow burn for me. I found Teddy a bit frustrating in her inability to leave the farm and almost blind acceptance of the monotony of her life. I think this was because the reader doesn’t understand why she has chosen that life until fairly late in the novel. It’s clear that Teddy is trying to overcome her issues for Will, but when she’s running hot and cold with no obvious reason, it got a bit stale. Deirdre was my favourite characters – she’s spiky, grumpy and wonderfully blunt with Teddy and Will. It’s not until later that you can see and understand the fierce love she has for Teddy. Was she right in doing what she did to ‘protect’ Teddy? I think Deirdre was doing her best in the only way that she knew how. The glimpses into Deirdre’s life combine a mixture of emotions – happiness, frustration, anger, sadness and then utter jaw dropping disbelief. If Deirdre hadn’t of been so tough, perhaps Teddy wouldn’t have been on the farm for such a long time. We also get a glimpse of characters from The Drifter – it was lovely to see Cate again!

As the novel went on and I understood the characters and their motivations better, I enjoyed The Cowgirl more. I’ve never read a story that focused on excavating a buried house before, which was exciting! The way this combined with family dynamics, secrets and developing relationships made for a solid read.

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