Author: Anna Romer
Lyrebird Hill is a story of the distant past and the recent past converging with the present. Written across two very different timelines Romer brings together the stories of Brenna and Ruby, two women who share a connection with the property of Lyrebird Hill.
Romer has written two distinct timelines and two leading ladies, both of whom grew up on Lyrebird Hill. I don’t want to say too much because there is a large element of mystery to the story and I would hate to ruin it for anyone.
The property of Lyrebird Hill has been passed down through the generations for over 100 years and it is still complete, even through drought and rough years none of the land has been sold off to help out.
In the 1800s there was an indigenous clan living on the land of Lyrebird Hill and there were some very mixed feelings about them being there. Brenna’s father wants to keep his land intact in an effort to keep the clan safe. Brenna spends lots of time with the clan, learning about all of the plants and herbs on the land and what they can be used for. Information which she keeps stored in a beautifully self-illustrated notebook that is never far from her side.
A bad crop sees Michael Magavin in dire straits financially and still determined not to sell off any of the land. In the end an associate offers a proposal which will keep Lyrebird Hill safe, it just means Brenna must marry him and move to Tasmania until she bears him a son. An arrangement which made my skin crawl but I am from a very different time. Rather than risk losing the family land that she loves Brenna agrees to the proposal, not unhappily either because she has been quite intrigued by Mr Whitby. It will be quite a transition for her to leave Lyrebird Hill and the Armidale area behind to move to Tasmania but she feels it is a necessary sacrifice for the safety of the family’s legacy.
Brenna soon comes to see a very different side of Mr Whitby once they are married and her time in Tasmania is quite lonely until she forms a very close friendship with Whitby’s sister Adele.
Alternating chapters focus on Ruby Cardel a young woman who spent much of her childhood at Lyrebird Hill, sometime after the tragic loss of her older sister Ruby and her mother moved into Armidale and the property was sold to a neighbor. The day Jamie died remains a mystery, whatever happened is locked away in Ruby’s mind – she has blocked out a year of her life and believes that it was all a tragic accident.
What will happen when she discovers that it wasn’t an accident? Slowly her life begins to come apart at the seams and glimpses of the past start returning.
Ruby is a beautifully drawn character, she incites such empathy even though there are times her insecurities make her a little painful to watch.
The story opens with her heading to an exhibition opening with her boyfriend. He is a well-known and gorgeous author who leaves her wondering, on a regular basis, why her? He could have anyone so why her. This is quite a common thought for a lot of people in relationships but it’s something Ruby really seems to struggle with.
Right from the beginning Rob seems not quite right for her. He is patronizing and just brushes away her fears. He doesn’t address them so they can work through them, just tries to brush them off with snippets from his books.
Ruby heads back home to Lyrebird Hill to find out what she can from the elderly neighbor who bought the property but things don’t quite go to plan.
The door that has been firmly bolted in her memory was unlocked when she studied her mum’s paintings at the exhibition but it isn’t until she returns home that the flow of memories starts to gain momentum.
Ruby’s story is told in present and past tense and the transition is quite rapid, one minute she’s in the present and going about her day and then she slips into the daydream of a returning memory and takes us with her.
Romer has woven the threads of this tale together remarkably well, even through three timelines the story never lacks cohesion and the flow is quite intense as it all moves towards the climactic coming together of all threads.
Lyrebird Hill is a story I love because it has elements of many genres and the central character is a booklover who ran away from home to open a bookstore – what a heavenly idea that is to me. The mystery woven into the history of both women is gripping and there were some fabulous twists in the story. There was a little romance and there was a side of history we often don’t get.
The way there were a couple of things that tied all of the threads so nicely together was convincingly done and even now as I sit and write this I am still connecting dots and putting pieces together, long after I closed the book.
Anna Romer is definitely batting 2 for 2 and I, personally, can’t wait to see what’s in store for us with number 3.
Some of our very lucky book club readers will also be reading Lyrebird Hill and I can not wait to hear what they have to say about it. Don’t forget to check back here for their thoughts.
They will also each have a question for Anna Romer in their comments and the best ones will be compiled for an upcoming author interview with Romer herself. I am looking forward to seeing what they come up with.