Harper Collins Australia
- ISBN: 9781867243502
- ISBN 10: 1867243504
- Imprint: HQ Fiction AU
- List Price: 32.99 AUD
When this arrived, I was, as you would expect, tremendously excited – given my love of Jackie’s books, both for kids and adults. I had great plans to relish reading it over the Easter break but then the whole pesky moving house thing intervened. Last Saturday it was three weeks since the actual upload and we were starting to feel settled in our new little cottage and my treat to myself was the hair salon. And no visit to the salon is without a book in hand so it was the perfect opportunity to start this one. I read 1/3 of it while I was there – and couldn’t put it down. Then, lost myself in its glorious narrative each night until Thursday, despite two days of relief teaching making me feel even tireder than usual.
Once again Jackie has given us both history and romance, drama and mystery, all set in a familiar yet new setting. Agnes Glock, daughter of a well-regarded Sydney doctor, is a poor medical student in Edinburgh defying conventions of the early 20th century on what is suitable for females, when her upper-class friend implores her to marry Puddin’s shell-shocked brother, to protect both him and their (amazingly wealthy!) inheritance. At first aghast at the very thought, but persuaded by extraordinary circumstances, Agnes – who was raised to care for others – takes on the marriage to Douglas with absolute righteous standards.
In Douglas’ family home in the Blue Mountains, Agnes gathers together the broken misfits from the Great War, employing some, providing shelter for others, and establishing medical care. These are the survivors that nobody wants to acknowledge. They may have given more than their fair share for King and Country but the ordinary townsfolk regard them as freaks and madmen.
Four years later her husband, in name only, has barely started to recover from his ordeals, when Agnes chances upon a child who is also in dire need of help, physically, medically and emotionally. Complications arise when Agnes’ former fiance, who was presumed dead, is very much alive and now practising medicine himself back in Sydney is unintentionally enlisted in the child’s recovery. As Agnes treads a path towards fulfilment of her own dreams and ambitions, and restores both her husband and the ‘dingo girl’ to full health and life, dark secrets surround them and evil intentions threaten not only their happiness but their very lives.
This is a narrative full of drama and tension which will captivate the reader, who becomes utterly invested in the fate of these characters. I love that Jackie has not only skilfully woven diverse characters into her cast, but has not shied away from the ugliness of which some humans are capable or perpetuate, particularly underlining the frequent hypocrisy and chasm between public persona and private actions. I sense that the pious church elder who is rotten to the core in the worst possible way is no accident of writing but could easily reflect the abuses of many so-called Christians and churches.
This really is a gripping read and even as I galloped through, desperately wanting to know ‘what happens next’, it is one of those books which leave one feeling bereft at its conclusion.
Thank you, Jackie, for another absolutely sensational read. It goes without saying that I give it my highest recommendation and if you have mature senior students, it will be entirely suitable for those as well. However, be aware that some circumstances described could be very confronting for some readers, and a trigger warning/caution should be given.