Author: J.H. Fletcher
Publication Date: 21st May 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Copy: 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.