BOOK CLUB: Burning Fields

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Author: Alli Sinclair
ISBN: 9781489256591
RRP: $29.99
Publication Date: May 21st 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

Burning Fields is a bit of a change of direction for Australian author Alli Sinclair in that it is set right here in Australia, in the time following World War II.

Sinclair has taken a time of great upheaval for women and explored what this period meant, the war was over and many men were returning home; needing to adjust to life away from the war and often take back their pre-war jobs. Women who had stepped up during the war effort and worked were now expected to return to their traditional roles. Not all women were happy to step back into their previous roles.

Rosie Stanton has been in Brisbane but an unexpected crumbling of the life she had built sees her return to the family farm in the small town of Piri River. She wants to help run the farm but some old-fashioned attitudes are difficult to shift now that the war is over.

Burning Fields is a story that explores many of the issues faced in the post-war days from farming succession, love, loss, discrimination, the suspicion of those different to us, addiction, loyalty and family.

Rosie returns to the family farm to find her father struggling with the books, but unwilling to allow her to take over, her mother suffering the loss of her sons to the war and everything else the same as it has always been. A setting as familiar and welcome as you could hope for, though now that she is grown her father is less likely to let her roam the way she did when she was much younger. Around the workmen is no place for a young lady, and Rosie is determined to make him see that she is capable.

The Stanton cane farm is a multicultural place but Mr Stanton holds little regard for Italians, and Rosie can not understand why. It’s a blanket attitude towards the entire race but he is especially wary of the Conti family next door, Italians who have bought the farm in recent years.

Tomas is the newest Conti to the farm, running from his wartime memories to the new home his family have made in Australia. Tomas loves his new country but he still struggles to adapt and settle because the people aren’t always so willing to accept strangers.

A friendship grows between Tomas and Rosie, which of course isn’t something that is ideal. There are already tensions brewing between the families and this friendship could certainly ignite the issue.

Rosie finds herself managing the farm after her father falls ill and is left with little choice, but that lack of choice certainly shows when another option arises. Rosie’s dedication to the job, and her family, is unquestionable. She gives her all to looking after both her struggling parents, and managing the farm; all without going near the workmen; and never quite understanding what makes her parents tick.

There are a lot of secrets being kept and when they come out it will be anyone’s guess where the chips will fall.

We get to know Tomas through his recollections of the past and the part he played in the war but it’s a story that unfolds very slowly throughout the whole narrative. Slowly we discover what he did, why he’s troubled and why Rosie is being warned off getting close to him by those who love him the most.

Rosie is holding in a lot of emotion, things that she’s been carrying for years and when finally she begins to open up about her feelings it all comes pouring out. It opens a path of healing for her and a way forward for the relationships in her family.

The good thing about small communities is that often it doesn’t matter if you don’t see eye to eye when tragedy strikes, the community will come together to do what has to be done in a crisis. It’s unfortunate that sometimes it takes a crisis for people to put aside their prejudices and see people as individuals rather than grouping together entire races. I guess in the long run as long as it is all set aside that’s the main thing.

Alli Sinclair has done it again, she has written a story that brings together two very different people, two very different places and two times that may only span 5 years but when it comes to times of war 5 years can be a lifetime.

Burning Fields is a story that I really enjoyed, I liked the slow unfolding of the mysteries and I was firmly on the side of Rosie, cheering her on to get the position she so desperately wanted, and was perfect for.

It was interesting to explore a post-war community that was on one hand quite multicultural but at the same time prejudiced.

Burning Fields brings together very different worlds for healing, moving forward and new growth in the post-war canefields of northern Queensland. A story with a strong-willed and passionate heroine I couldn’t help but love.

Burning Fields is Book #26 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.

Alli Sinclair can be contacted on Alli and Facebook.

Burning Fields is published by Harlequin Mira and available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Harlequin Mira 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading Burning Fields so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

19 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Burning Fields

  1. Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair. 28/6/18

    This book is set in the Queensland Cane fields in 1948, when the world is struggling to recover after WW2.

    Rosie Stanton returns home to the family farm hoping to help her parents, as both her brothers have been lost in the war. She has worked in the Woman’s Army, and feels her accounting skills will be of value to her father, but he believes that only men can run a business, and a woman’s job is in the kitchen. When he becomes ill, Rosie begs for him to allow her to help do the books, and manage the staff on the farm.

    There are a lot of migrant workers in the cane fields. The property next door is owned by Italians, who Rosie’s dad detests. Although ill, Rosie’s dad still won’t give Rosie consent to manage the farm, and the workers are unsettled and disgruntled.

    How can Rosie make her Dad realise that she has to be permitted to make decisions to keep the business going? And why won’t he let her do the books, or manage the workforce? When a family secret is revealed, Rosie has her world tipped upside down.

    Thank you Beauty & Lace Book Club, and Harlequin Books for the chance to read this.

  2. Burning Fields is the first book by Alli Sinclair that I have had the pleasure of reading.
    Rosie returns to her family after an incident in Brisbane and on the way home she meets Tomas what follows is a tale of prejudice, inequality and all the dramas with twists and turns and eventually forgiveness and love.
    A very enjoyable read and recommend it to lovers of Australian stories with a touch of history and romance.

  3. Burning Fields is the sixth novel by Australian author Ali Sinclair. Set during the post war year of 1948, this historical fiction story captures both the tension and change that permeates Australian society. Told in the third person, it follows two young protagonists, Rosie in 1948 and Tomas in 1943. The narrative seamlessly alternates between the two timelines to give the reader a true sense of life during and after the war.

    Rosie was an inspirational character for women of all ages. Returning from Brisbane to her home town of Piri River in North Queensland, she is a woman ahead of her time. Intelligent, independent and hardworking, Rosie wants to work on the family sugar cane farm after working for the war effort. Her father is a traditionalist though, believing that a woman’s place is in the kitchen while her mother is struggling with her own demons. She is barely functioning after the death of one son and the disappearance of another during the war. Fate is on Rosie’s side when family circumstances change, unfortunately for the worse. Despite the massive upheaval, Rosie continues to fight for equality in her family home in some subtle and not so subtle ways.

    During this trying time, Rosie also finds herself falling for the newly arrived Italian man, Tomas. Here, Rosie finds herself fighting a second battle; the prejudice and racism that is rife amongst the community as well as her family. It was moving witnessing Rosie stand up for the immigrant Italians who faced horrific physical and verbal abuse from the local community who distrusted them because of Italy’s role during the war. Unlike many in her local community, Rosie believed that each person should be judged on who they are as an individual, not as a group. This is an important reminder for today’s society, where there are many people who could take a leaf out of Rosie’s book.

    Tomas was inspirational character for men today. Initially I was not as interested in his 1943 story set in Palermo, Sicily, but as I continued to read I found I became more intrigued. I came to appreciate that Tomas’ timeline is an important window into the efforts the civilian made to assist the allies. It portrays the physical and mental hardship that the Italians faced that many would find difficult to fathom in modern society. Linking Tomas’ war role with personal heart-break was a stroke of genius as it had me emotionally invested in his back story.

    Thanks to a grandmother who was a wonderful role model promoting equality between the sexes, Tomas, just like Rosie, is ahead of his time. He respects women and this is evident in not just his words, but also in his actions. Tomas is always there to support Rosie as a friend, or more, and knows that she is a woman who can look after herself. Watching their relationship grow was a joy as they proved time and again to the nay sayers that they belonged together.

    With themes of family, friendship, gender roles as well as war and it’s effects, this is an uplifting novel that will remind readers that we can always learn from the past.

  4. Living in Far North Queensland I was excited to get the opportunity to read and review this book. This is a tale of Australia in a different time. It is just after World War II and much is changing. Sadly though some things haven’t changed much at all
    Rosie Stanton is returning home to the family home. A place where she finds that the opportunities given to her during the war aren’t available to the same extent
    Tomas Conti is starting a new life in a new country. He’s also running from a past he’d rather forget.
    The two meet up on the bus to Piri River, where they find they are neighbours.
    Life doesn’t go smoothly though. Secrets are discovered. Old values are challenged.
    This is a well paced book that will keep you reading. The two main characters are very likable.
    I enjoyed this book for what it was. It also left me thinking a little more about those in generations past and the struggles that they faced
    Thank you Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for the opportunity

  5. I grew up in Far North Queensland, and was excited to receive this novel to review, as I fondly remember the acres upon acres of sugar cane growing, and harvesting time as a child, and my Nanna’s memories of life on the farm during WWII.

    This is a historical novel set in North Queensland, and the storyline switches between the period during and after WWII. It details the struggles of Rosie as she fights to keep the freedom and position she gained during the war, as well as issues within families, PTSD for returned soldiers, and the changes within society following immigration in post-war Australia.

    The author has a beautiful, descriptive writing style, conjuring scenes of the lush countryside and the strong, lovable characters. Well-researched and engrossing, this novel is well worth reading.

    Thank you for the opportunity to read and review Burning Fields!

  6. I love Alli Sinclair’s books and was excited to read a book where one of my favourite authors joined one of my favourite genres, Australian Historical Fiction. However this book just didn’t do it for me. It was well written and the story-line was good but somewhere along the line the delivery fell flat.
    The story revolves around Rosie, a third generation cane grower, and Tomas, newly immigrated from Italy.
    The story touches on issues of racism, women’s worth, the effects of the war on family and PTSD.
    Rosie was just too overbearing for my liking. I liked she was strong and stubborn but the way she told everyone off about opening up but held her own demons in irked me.
    The story had too many weak characters that made it a little depressing.
    I would still recommend it as a good read, just not fabulous, because it’s interesting to see how far we have and haven’t come in men’s attitude towards women.

    Thank you to Beauty & Lace and Harlequin Mira for my copy.

  7. Thank you Beauty & Lace and Harlequin Mira for my copy of Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair in return for an honest review.

    I must admit, I’m conflicted by this book. It was a wonderful story and the author has very obviously put in a LOT of research. The characters were authentic and believable and the story takes the reader back to a by-gone era and makes you really feel as if you are there. However, the story seemed to come off a bit ‘preach-y’ in places as if the author was trying to instruct or educate you and then placing the words in the characters mouths/thoughts. I know this is what author’s do but it did come across as stilted in places and almost as a school lesson. Despite this I really enjoyed this story and would recommend it to anyone.
    As the author states in the Author Note “it is interesting to see how far, or how little in some instances, we have come”. The author has definitely succeeded in this endeavour as the book makes you think and you can’t help comparing life then to life now.

  8. Set after WW2 in a time of change, for so many there was a need to go back and hold tight to the old ways, particularly in keeping traditional roles. Rosie is a strong woman who played an active roll in the Australian Womens army service in Sydney and knows she is capable. She decides to go home hoping life there would be better than she remembers from her youth. Her father is one holding on to the old ways, her mother still grieves terribly for her lost sons. On her trip home Rosie meets the handsome Tomas, her Italian neighbour on the bus who has his own past. It doesn’t help that her father has a very strong prejudice for Italians…

  9. This is the first novel I have read written by Alli Sinclair.

    I enjoyed reading it, Rosie was a strong, independent woman set in the 1940’s in Qld. The grandmother represented a typical Italian grandmother who is the heart of the family. It was interesting to read Tomas’s acceptance of Rosies character as I would’ve thought a young italian man post WW2 would not have been as accepting of Rosie’s strong independence.

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