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Cedar by Kim Winter is a historical and emotionally moving story. It’s set in Australia in the early 1900s and in Europe during World War 1. The story tells of family, love and loss, relationships, mateship, resilience and tragedy. 

The artwork on the cover is wonderful, truly depicting the essence of the story.

Matthew lives a carefree life on a sheep and cattle station some hours from Bourke with his parents Eliza and Thomas Watson. There has been a drought for seven years and eight-year-old Matty is excited as the long-awaited rains arrive. The knowledge of the Aboriginal stockmen and women helped the family to survive the drought.

The rains have caused the river to flood and a man has drowned. His eight-year-old son Jack survives.

Matty’s family take Jack to live with them. 

Sammy, the stockman’s son is the same age. The three boys are inseparable and consider themselves brothers. Eliza includes Sammy in the schooling with Matty and Jack.  Sammy is taught in the traditional way of his people and shares his skills.

Together they have lots of adventures as kids around the station. As young men, they are involved in the running of the property.

Their carefree life ends when World War 1 breaks out. Jack enlists first, his father was from England and he wants to honour him.

Matty secretly follows, hoping to find Jack. Matty takes his beloved horse Cedar with him and enlists in the 12th Light Horse.

Sammy follows and enlists in the infantry and they hope to find each other.

They may have enlisted as boys, but they quickly grow up as their eyes are opened to the horrors of war.

The war years are told in their letters to each other and letters to home. Those who return carry the horror of their experiences. It is hard to return to life as it was.

The historical research is excellent. Covering life on a remote station and how lonely it is for Eliza. Showing how life was at that time for Aboriginal families and World War 1 is portrayed with stories from Egypt and the trenches of Gallipoli and France.

I loved this emotionally moving story. There are parts that will make you laugh and parts where you will cry. The family are lovely and you feel like you would like to be friends with them. The writing style makes the book easy to read. There is plenty of action to keep you engaged as you follow the lives of Matty, Jack and Sammy.

Thoroughly recommend this book.

A selection of our members are reading Cedar by Kim Winter. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

8 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Cedar

  1. Oh how I loved Cedar! As I read, the story unfolded like a movie. When the boys were younger, It reminded me of a 1950s movie, Smiley that I recently saw, and the antics that they got up to.
    Cedar was so full of life and as an animal lover, Cedar pulled at all the heart strings. Be prepared for the emotions .

    Very well written, researched, and describes life in the outback very well, engaging the reader vividly.

  2. This book was so well written. It starts off with the boys’ carefree life on the station before World War 1 begins and the boys all sign up separately.
    Matty takes his beautiful mare Cedar, that he watched being born with him.
    The parts about the war and Matty and Cedar’s involvement are very emotional and I shed a few tears whilst reading.
    Very recommended.

  3. Thank you to Beauty and Lace for giving me the chance to review Cedar by Kim Winter,
    The novel began with everything being quite calm and the boys boys not having a care in the world before World War 1 began. It covered what life was like during that time so it was nice to read that.
    Both boys do enlist in the war without telling each other and head off to help the war efforts.
    It was very emotional with Matty able to take his horse called Cedar who was a beautiful addition and played a very important role in the novel.
    Cedar was just an amazing horse and I found that Matty sort of matured with Cedar. Having each other was certainly beneficial to both of them.
    I am someone who really loves animals so it really tug at my heartstrings.

    The book was well written and the author obviously knew a lot about this particular time in our history which is another reason why I think I liked it so much.

    I highly recommend this novel to anyone, even if you typically don’t like historical fiction I think you will love Cedar.

  4. I really enjoyed reading Cedar. It was extremely well written and gave a great insight into the lives of both Aboriginal people and the early settlers. Life would have been tough!
    I definitely recommend Cedar to anyone interested in Australian history.

  5. Fantastic book, times definitely were tough and with all the heart and soul entwined in this book made for a great read indeed. I loved the historical contents of this book and Cedar was one amazing horse and had my heart.

  6. “Cedar” is an Australian historical fiction, meticulously researched and with a wide canvas. Although there is an audience for novels like this, I personally found it rather boring. It did not connect with me at all.

    “Cedar” tells the story of three young boys growing up on a remote Australian station, beginning in the late 1890s. Matty is the son of the white farmers. Jack is the orphan who joins his family in tragic circumstances. Sammy is the Indigenous boy who grows up alongside them. Cedar is Matty’s beloved horse, raised from a foal.

    Matty’s family takes an approach to the Indigenous people on their station which is atypical of the time. While this is a worthy attempt to highlight some of the injustices visited upon our Indigenous people, the unfortunate result was that at times I felt that I was receiving a lecture on racism and ethics.

    The other difficulty I had with this novel is that at times it felt as though the author wanted to cram in all of the research she’d done. So, at times the novel felt slow and overly detailed, and at others it felt very dry, and again sometimes felt that I was being lectured.

    Not every reader will feel this way. I suspect that the less familiar you are with the history, the more enjoyable this novel will be. It may feel less like a lecture and more like a discovery.

    I also felt that the novel was lacking a strong narrative drive: something the novel was working towards, an aim or focus to keep me reading. Again, some readers will simply enjoy the sprawling approach and not feel that they need a destination in mind. However, it left me feeling that the novel was a bit pointless.

    As you can tell, I was very much the wrong audience for this novel. Neither the writing style or the story itself appealed to me. However, this is not a bad book. The writing flows well, and this is likely to appeal to those who like sprawling epics and a great deal of background detail.

  7. Cedar depicts Australia at a pivotal moment in its history. Traditional Australian life, in earlier times displaying the adversity felt by both new and traditional Australians alike, is dealt with insight and compassion.
    The relationship between Matty and Cedar is endearing and will tug at the heartstrings of any animal lover.
    A terrific read with wonderful descriptions and revelations about early Australia!
    Thank you most sincerely for the opportunity to read such an amazing story.
    Loved it!

  8. Wow what an amazing cover picture, in itself an incredible tale – it is full of emotion, and I think truly represents the story within. I enjoyed, and would especially recommend this book to those who love horses and historically based stories of the outback. The author’s in-depth research to inform the background of the storyline is apparent throughout. Overall, my opinion is that this is a beautifully crafted story.

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