BOOK CLUB: In The Valley of Blue Gums

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Author: J.H. Fletcher
RRP: $29.99
Publication Date: 
21st May 2018
Harlequin Mira
Courtesy of the Publisher

In The Valley of Blue Gums is the first novel I have read by J.H. Fletcher and I was fascinated by the way he crafts his story and the way he spoke of writing the truth masquerading as fiction.

There was quite a lot of jumping around within these pages, between different characters and different timelines. The shifts between timelines are well structured and well laid out so it is easy to follow.

Thea Anderson is an accomplished author and journalist with a colourful history fraught with danger. In the year 2000, Thea is having coffee in a Sydney café one afternoon when a bomb is detonated, she gets out and helps a young American woman to safety. Still, she heads back to the hotel, gets organised and attends the dinner.

Fletcher has woven an intense look at some huge moments in our modern history with the life of journalist Thea Anderson. She was right there for some amazing moments of historical significance and that helped to make her career. Journalists document our history as it plays out and sometimes that means that the best scoops are scooped simply because a reporter was in the right place at the right time. Yes, you hope they write well but to an extent, that’s what editors are for. The vast difference between the copy Thea sent in and what actually made the papers at times illustrated just how big a job editors do.

Thea Anderson is fearless, she always dreamed of being a foreign correspondent and sometimes that meant walking straight into the face of danger. She made her name with coverage of the Kennedy assassination and then in the field during the Vietnam War. Adventure and danger have always been a part of her life, she fled Malaya with her mother as a toddler. She has been told, more than once, that she was born lucky and looking back on her life there have been times it seems that may be true.

In The Valley of Blue Gums tells the story of Thea’s life and career. It begins with the bombing of a Sydney café where we meet Thea and discover she’s feeling a little lost and stagnated, not sure where life will take her next. She takes us back to her beginnings and through some pretty amazing moments in history while switching between past and present. The present sees her head to her home in Tasmania.

This is a fictional novel but as Fletcher says through his characters in the book, telling real stories tied up in fiction is a way to get stories told that would otherwise never see print. These events may not have happened, but they could have.

Thea’s experiences in Saigon show a side of the war that wasn’t often seen, and that was the point of her assignment; to see what the Vietnamese thought of the war. Thea saw that it was the civilians suffering the most and regardless of who won, the civilians would lose. The thousands of displaced, the thousands of street kids and the wounded and maimed. It was heartbreaking to think of the damage and destruction to the people and the country.

In the present day time period (which was 2000) Thea is recovering from the explosion and working out what she will do with the rest of her life. Trying to decide if there is another book in her clamouring to get out.

I really enjoyed this book. Thea was a fantastic character; she is fearless and determined but also very aware of how easily she could become arrogant and so she never did.

Fletcher has written an engaging novel that captured my attention and made me connect with the characters, I wanted things to work out for them.

In The Valley of Blue Gums is a tale of love, of following your dreams, of finding the person who really understands you and of second chances. I loved the story and the characters. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more by J.H. Fletcher.

In The Valley of Blue Gums 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 In The Valley of Blue Gums so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.


18 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: In The Valley of Blue Gums

  1. I was really quite sad to reach the end of this book. This was a book that dragged me in and I found that I really liked the main character, Thea and became invested in her story. We first meet Thea as she has a coffee in a cafe in Sydney and we are straight into the action when a bomb inside the cafe detonates and Thea finds herself shaken but ok so she is able to help a young woman free herself from rubble and walk out of the danger zone. This event in her life turns out to be oddly connected to her past where was in the right place at the right time when JFK’s motorcade drove past the Book Depository in Dallas which progressed her journalistic career and then lead to her being in Vietnam during the Vietnam war. Thea’s drive and fearless determination to unearth the truth makes her one of the best in her field. We see how everything is linked to put Thea on the path her life takes.
    I loved that the story flicked gently between the 60’s and present day. Her personal relationship with her husband and how loving he was to allow her to be the woman she just had to be and seeing major points in history through her eyes was very interesting.
    This is one Author that I will certainly look out for.

  2. I really enjoyed this book, my first by J.H. Fletcher and it certainly won’t be my last. The story is a gripping tale of foreign correspondent/journalist and writer Thea Anderson’s adventurous life. The story crosses over times lines from the present to the past but does so seamlessly and flows really well.

    The story covers Lea’s life from her young childhood in Malaya, through to her life in Sydney working for the Clarion newspaper and then to her home in Tasmania where she meets her husband Peter Torrance, a winemaker who runs Keebuna vineyard in the Valley of Blue Gums.

    Lea begins her foreign correspondent career in America covering the Kennedy assignation. After making a name for herself she spends a lot of her journalistic time in Vietnam covering the war. This period of her life is well researched and really interesting! She is fearless and as a woman in a mans world in Vietnam she is an inspiration. The work she does for the newspaper and her humanitarian role in Vietnam calls her back to the country until one episode makes her realise she needs to be where her heart is, back in Tasmania.

    After a clash with the newspaper over an episode in Vietnam she decides to cease her life as a foreign correspondent and she becomes a writer – writing fact as fiction. Her books strike a cord with the general public and she wins many awards. Her life with her husband Peter and daughter Alison in the valley provide a haven for her writing.
    There is heartache and despair in Thea’s life but her relationships change over time and new ones are built, even later in life.

    This is one of those books that you just can’t put down. A 5/5 for me.

  3. Thea Anderson has an adventurous and dangerous life. She flees Malaysia with her mother and settles down to life in Australia.

    She studies journalism and her wanderlust sees her travelling the world. On one of her trips home, she meets Peter, a winemaker, from Tasmania and they marry. She tries to settle down but her restless soul beckons her back and travels to war torn Vietnam where she has unfinished business. Her husband encourages her as you can’t cage a wild bird and he knows she needs to portray the real story and not the clap trap that officials give out. With bravery and courage she exposes the corruption that is the honesty of life for the locals caught in a war that is destroying their country.

    This book is all about choices in life and the dilemmas we all have, marriage and children versus career. It is relatable to real life and the love and loss we all have to face. But with love and support we can all face the difficult challenges in our lives and come through the other side. Great read.

  4. I absolutely LOVED this book. I have read most of J.H Fletchers novels, and this I would have to say is my favourite.
    The life of a foreign correspondent, told in the present, with snippets of her past that led her to where she is today.
    Brilliantly researched and graphic, romantic and funny, death and sadness, it covered it all. I quite literally couldn’t put it down, and read it over 2 nights.
    It’s one of those books that just draws you into the characters from the very first page, right through until the last.
    I hope John writes a sequel to it, perhaps through the daughters eyes. I’d read it in a flash!
    to me, a fabulous read, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a really great read. 5/5 from me.

  5. Thanks Beauty and lace for the opportunity to read this book.

    First of all, what a cover! The cover is simply stunning with its vibrant colours and natural design.

    At first I was worried the book would be hard to follow with its chopping and changing of times, but after around a quarter of the book that all falls away and it’s easy to go back and forth in the times. J H Fletcher has perfected the ability to chop and change times easily.

    Lea was a great character, I don’t think it’s possible to not have liked her!

    Thanks to Beauty and lace and J H Fletcher for allowing me to read this fantastic, easy reading book, I’ll look forward to the next one!

  6. ‘In the valley of Blue gums’ by JH Fletcher is the first book I’ve read by Fletcher, I now have another author to add to my to read pile.
    The book is based around Thea Anderson and her life, Thea is now 60 and the book looks back over her life and adventures. Her whole life it seems has been filled with dangerous and life threatening situations, from a young girl fleeing Malaya with her mother to the present time in the book.
    Fletcher has written this book beautifully it could have been so confusing with the odd mash of another characters story and point of view, into Thea’s story and jumping too and through from the present time to the past.
    An aspiring journalist Thea meets winemaker Peter Torrance as she’s nearing the end of her studies, there is an instant connection for both, but both have aspirations, Peter to upgrade the family winery and Thea to become a foreign correspondent, which seem unable to allow them a relationship. Thea lands a job with a media company and kickstarts her career by her coverage of President Kennedy’s assassination. Then sent to Vietnam, one of few women to do so, her coverage of the war continues to help her make a name for herself but it’s a dangerous place to be and Thea lands herself in trouble more than once.
    Upon her return from Vietnam an opportunity arises that could allow Thea to return to Tasmania and possibly Peter, if she hasn’t left it too long….
    I enjoyed this book, it was easy to follow and keep up with the toeing and throwing from the past to the present, the different angle of Vietnam was interesting to read as well.
    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for the chance to review this book, I now have another author to keep an eye out for!

  7. Absolutely LOVED “In The Valley of Blue Gums.” So much going on, stories within stories and time lines crisscrossing throughout but written so well it isn’t difficult keeping track. My first experience of J. H. Fletcher but I was so engrossed it won’t be my last.

    I loved the way we were given early background of Thea, beginning life in what was Malaya, now Malaysia through to her reaching her 6o’s but refusing to become anything other than who she is, who she has become through her life experiences.

    Thea was a journalist, a foreign correspondent and the incredible experiences she lived through, firstly with the assassination of President Kennedy then in Vietnam, made fascinating and gripping reading, at times harrowing and horrifying.

    The incredibly well written stories within stories, with Thea’s daughter and her connection to “the valley of blue gums” made this one of the most satisfying reads I’ve had recently and I’ve had many. The way journalism with the reporting is woven with day to day living is masterful. This book has so much happening but it never gets overcrowded or over sentimental. The love stories woven through are beautiful and add a softness to the often harsh journalistic element.

    I would recommend this book to anyone – there is so much to thoroughly enjoy. Thank you sincerely for the opportunity to “discover” another incredible Australian author, Beauty and Lace and Harlequin Mira. J. H. Fletcher is definitely someone whose books I’ll look out for. This has been a fantastic and incredibly satisfying read.

  8. A thoroughly delightful story about Thea and her life as a reporter turned writer and the relationships she has with her husband, daughter, those she meets and the challenges she sets herself in her career.
    Though sad at times, especially during her time as a reporter in Vietnam, her relationship with her father after her mother’s death, the newspaper she commenced her career with and when her husband dies, she has had a intriguing life and this is shown in her writing. The connection she has with her storys being real without giving too much away to identify real life characters is what has made her a successful writer.

    Thea enjoys meeting up with old friends after years apart and reestablishing a connection when her daughter decides to marry.
    Based from the family vinyard where the Blue Gums sit in serenity Thea’s adult life is nurtured with love, anticipation and perhaps the odd bottle of wine!

    This book is a must read. I pick 5/5

  9. The title, In the Valley of Blue Gums (the blue gum is the state tree of Tasmania), the rich Australian feel cover and my past reading history with the author J.H. Fletcher, all culminated in a feeling that I just had to read this novel. Thanks to an opportunity through Beauty and Lace book club, I am able to enjoy my third book written by J.H. Fletcher. In the Valley of Blue Gums is a modern historical fiction title that deftly combines love, ambition and partnership in the one involving novel.

    As soon as I picked up In the Valley of Blue Gums to read, I was reminded of just how much I enjoy the writing of J.H. Fletcher. I especially like the way in which he approaches of each of novels, this one included. He is able to firmly grab a hold of the past and weave these events into an engaging fictional tale, featuring dynamic characters. Fletcher certainly knows his craft, he composes his tales to a perfect symphony of facts combined with fiction. He also structures his novels in a way that they flow gently from place to place and time period to time period.

    In the Valley of Blue Gums sees Fletcher situate his new novel in a number of different international locales. We are transported with Thea, to her childhood in Malaya, we then move to Thea’s reporting years in the US and Vietnam. To please his loyal Australian readers, Fletcher faithfully returns to Tasmania, showcasing a beautiful vineyard area. As a self confessed lover of all things Tasmanian, Fletcher won me over. What I picked up on with this novel, was that no matter what the location or time zone, Fletcher had a good handle on his locale.

    Fletcher’s leading lady is Thea, who is one of the most vibrant and intrepid female protagonist’s I have come across for some time. It was an absolute pleasure to follow Thea’s colourful and adventure filled journey from her childhood, right through until her 60’s. It is a rich life, full of abundant scenes that defined history over the decades. Thea is supported by a rich secondary cast and I have to say I thoroughly appreciated the way Thea’s character interacted with these figures.

    The most confronting part of this novel was the opening scene and the history that is explored by Fletcher. When we first meet Thea she has been the victim of a bombing in a cafe in Sydney. This brings to light the current climate of present day Australian society. While in the past, the examination of the Kennedy era in the US leaves much to think about. Likewise, the most overwhelming part of In the Valley of Blue Gums was the Vietnam War sequences, where we follow Thea in the field. It is a perilous feat on behalf of the lead, but in the process we gain a better understanding of how the Vietnamese people were directly impacted by the war. We also gain a little more appreciation of what the Vietnamese truly thought of the war and the revelations are heartbreaking.

    For me, the starring feature which I feel I must spotlight is the Tasmanian winery sequences. I adored learning more about the business of wine making in this region, what works and what doesn’t. I almost booked my return visit to Tasmania!

    The back cover of In the Valley of Blue Gums reads, ‘another compelling novel from master storyteller J.H. Fletcher’. I couldn’t have put it any better myself. This is a great read that I am very happy to recommend to fans of Fletcher’s work and all historical fiction enthusiasts.

    *I wish to thank Beauty & Lace Book Club/Harlequin Mira for a copy of this book for review purposes.

  10. In the Valley of Blue Gums by J H Fletcher is the first book I have read by this author and found it a most enjoyable read.

    The story follows the adventures of Thea Anderson’s life. Her whole life is full of many adventures from her childhood right through to her adult life. From fleeing Malaya as a child to her times of being a journalist in wartime Vietman. But as a journalist and foreign correspondent she makes her name internationally with her coverage of the assassination of President Kennedy, following this her jobs leads her further into the world of the Vietnam war and very close to death.

    Before Thea had completed her studies and started travelling with her journalism she had met Peter Torrance with whom she had had an instant connection. Both Peter and Thea have dreams of what they want from life and don’t want to stop each other so they follow their passions. Peter wants to upgrade the family winery and Thea be the journalist. Thea does visit Tasmania to see Peter regularly and the relationship and feelings for Peter grow. Upon her return from Vietnam Thea has the opportunity to return to Tasmania and hopes that she has not left things with Peter too long, you will need to read the story to see what happens ..

    As I live in Tasmania, it was really wonderful to read a book highlighting one of the wine making regions and learning about wine making.

    A enjoyable read and highly recommended.

  11. In the Valley of Blue Gums: loved it. I will always be a country girl at heart. Thi sure is the story of Thea who has lead a very interesting life. Successful in her career and having a life that many would envy, we follow Thea’s life from an early childhood in Malaya, a working career in Vietnam and the USA and also a vineyard area of Tasmania
    I was not familiar with the author J.H. Fletcher and incorrectly assumed this was the work of a female. Fletcher has a unique grasp of the female psyche
    This was an enjoyable book to read, as it flipped through the different periods in her life. It moved quite fastly and gave new perspectives on the Vietnam War
    I highly recommend this story of a strong gutsy woman who right from the start refused to fit any moulds
    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for giving me the chance to review this

  12. I thoroughly enjoyed In The Valley Of The Blue Gums.
    The story revolves around Thea Anderson who lives an adventurous and interesting life from childhood right through her adult life.
    From her early life in Malaya through to being a highly respected wartime journalist in Vietnam and the U.S then to a vineyard covered Tasmania , Thea ‘s life is one adventure after another.
    There are quite a few time jumps in this J.H Fletcher novel but I didnt find it hard to follow and read the book in a couple of sittings.
    I definitely recommend In The Valley Of The Blue Gums by J.H Fletcher for anyone that enjoys a strong female character novel and believe most people would enjoy this story.
    Thankyou Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for allowing me to read and review this outstanding book.

  13. The Valley of the Blue Gums is the first novel of J.H. Fletcher that I have read. It took me a little bit to really get into the book, but once I found my pace and settled in, I really enjoyed it.

    Thea’s life encompasses Malaya, Australia, the USA, Vietnam, love and war. She was a strong heroine and a trailblazer with women in journalism. Real events and social issues, from both past and present, are cleverly woven into the story line, which reveals different views of those events, which are informative and at times heartbreaking. I also enjoyed the descriptive scenes set in beautiful Tasmania, with the vineyard and wine-making process.

    The story line does jump between the past and present, however it is easy to follow and doesn’t feel disjointed or jarring. There is so much happening within the novel, but it is written in such a lovely style, that it isn’t overwhelming or confusing.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this well-crafted modern/historical fiction novel. Thank you for allowing me the chance to read and review it!

  14. Thank you for the chance to read my first J.H Fletcher novel – and it certainly wont be my last – I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    We are introduced to Thea and then her daughter Alison the story takes us back to Thea”s youth and her very interesting life journey and then Alison’s life also.
    I enjoyed the different time frames and thought that they flowed easily and tied into the story as a whole.
    Thoroughly recommend In The Valley of Blue Gums.
    4 stars out of 5.

  15. I was pleasantly surprised by this book, In the Valley of Blue Gums

    I thought it was going to be a long dragged out book. But it was everything but!

    It was fantastic.
    You can tell so much knowledge and research went into writing this novel. Travelling back into Malaya and Vietnam war you feel you a right amongst the characters.

    The novel goes backend forth from the past to the present, but it is written so well that there is no confusion and it keeps it very exciting.

    Hats off to J.H Fletcher, I will be looking out for more of his novels!

  16. This was my first novel by J H Fletcher, and unfortunately I was very disappointed with the book. I found it very hard to get into. I found the jumping back and forth in time lines, rather annoying and the story line with Thea a little over the top. But I did enjoy Thea’s story more than her daughters.
    Sadly, this book was not for me.

  17. I enjoyed reading this novel very much, It jumped around from characters & different time periods, but after a few chapters it was not as confusing.

    A gripping story of the effects of the war.

  18. In The Valley of Blue Gums – J. H. Fletcher
    The most interesting parts of this novel were having the main character placed into important moments of history including the assassination of JFK and the Vietnam War. However, with the changing of years in various chapters, I often found myself trying to remember what had happened in that particular year earlier in the book, so I could continue with the story. I don’t think anything would have been lost had the novel taken a more sequential approach.
    Having said that, though, the writing of J. H. Fletcher puts you right into the scenes and I could nearly feel the fresh weather of Tasmania, the heat of the tropics and the stuffiness of the book depository in Dallas.
    Being a journalist myself, I envied and admired the main character, Thea, for her perseverance and courage.
    I won’t give the plot away, but the love story that runs through the novel is also refreshing, although halfway through you can predict the couples that will form, but life isn’t smooth sailing.
    Although this is a fictional novel, the events are real and the storyline is based very much in reality, giving the reader a different perspective on tragic events of the past – both distant and recent. It’s also a novel that will stay with you long after you’ve read the last word.
    Thank you to Harlequin Mira and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to review In The Valley of Blue Gums.

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