The good: Very detailed writing.
The not-so-good: If you haven’t read the other books in the series, it could be a bit confusing.
Why I chose it: Haven’t read Joy Dettman before – thanks to Pan Macmillan for the copy.
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Rating: 7 out of 10
I have a confession to make. I haven’t read Joy Dettman’s books before, even though I’ve always meant to. Australiana novels are a genre that I’ve been reading since my teens (often during study weeks). Trails in the Dust is the seventh and final book in the Woody Creek series, focusing on a family in the fictional Victorian town of Woody Creek. It gives closure to the main characters of Jenny, Jim, Georgie, Trudy and Cara.
I’m generally a reader who reads a series in order, but in this day and age I’ll just jump in wherever to see if I like an author and their style. I did have some difficulty understanding several things initially in this book. I felt like I’d come in at the wrong end of a conversation (you know, the part that makes it all seem completely different to what was actually said). First of all, trying to understand Jenny’s relationships with Trudy and Georgie and her link with Cara. They are very complex relationships and I found it best to just keep reading to work out the type of relationship Jenny had with each of her daughters. (Or you could just read the blurbs/reviews of each of the previous novels in the series if you don’t mind spoilers). Dettman gives a very detailed account of what has happened to each of Jenny’s daughters as well as mentioning Jenny’s own trials and tribulations. It’s fair to say that none of them has had an easy life. (I also think I would just keep driving through Woody Creek if I was there – it seems to be a bit too eventful for me!). I’d also recommend reading the blurbs to get a sense of the time period of the novel. Not knowing if a novel is set in modern times or the past is a personal bugbear of mine. I must admit to searching for signs of mobile phones, the internet and social media to get an idea of when everything was occurring. (It does right itself out in the book, but if this is something that concerns you, seek out the blurbs first).
Trails in the Dust isn’t without drama and heartache that readers of the series will be familiar with. Jenny is now an older lady, hoping for a quieter life but suspecting that Trudy and her children won’t be granting that. The strain of the previous dramas has had a toll on husband Jim, which affects Jenny and her daughters. Jenny decides that now is the time to try to reconnect with her lost son and tell him the truth. It’s not as easy journey for Jenny and her daughters also have a number of dramas to contend with. The writing is detailed and heart wrenching at times as Dettman puts her characters through the wringer. Jenny is faced with grief and regret at the past, looking back at her past life and wondering at the choices and paths. It makes for an emotionally dense novel, intricately plotted that I’m sure will delight fans of the series.