By Fiona Palmer
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Fiona Palmer is a popular Australian author who has written ten bestselling novels, she lives in a rural community hundreds of kilometres from Perth and as well as writing works as a farmhand. Many of her novels are set in country communities and in this novel her knowledge of the bush and farming clearly comes through.
Matters of the Heart is Fiona’s new novel, it is a 21stcentury Australian adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I’m a loyal fan of Jane Austen’s and I’ve read several good and not so good versions of Jane’s great novels so when I first heard of this novel I was a little apprehensive.
However I have read Fiona’s recent novel Sisters and Brothers and thoroughly enjoyed it so that put my mind at ease. I enjoy her writing style and her well-developed characters so was keen to see what she would do with the famous Austen characters.
Matters of the Heart is right up to date as it is set in Western Australia in 2019, the Bennets are a farming family and like many Australian farmers having a tough time. In line with Pride and Prejudice there are five daughters and while the farm is not entailed away from the daughters it is possible that they will lose the farm to the bank. The farm is Lizzy Bennet’s life and she works hard to prove that a woman can manage a farm as well as, or better than, a man.
Charles Bingley buys the neighbouring farm, Netherfield Park, and when Mrs Bennet discovers he is single she’s keen to introduce her daughters to him. At the local dance the two families meet and the romance between Bingley and Jane begins and it’s where Lizzy first crosses paths with Will Darcy. As with the original Pride and Prejudice Lizzy and Darcy do not get off to a good start.
While reading a new version of a well-loved classic it’s always interesting to see how the characters and storylines are portrayed. I was keen to find out how they would fit in a Mr Collins type character and what about Wickham, how would that work? How would the novel address the use of social media and different attitudes to sex and marriage? I was glad that the novel did not exactly mimic the storyline of Pride and Prejudice and at times while reading it I forgot it was based on the Austen novel and enjoyed it for what it is – a 21stcentury love story.
The novel deals with pride, how we often are blinded by first impressions and refuse to change our views on people or matters, we don’t want to admit to being wrong. The prejudices addressed in this novel are not just those between the lead characters but also society’s – the prejudices women still face in many areas of their lives.
I did enjoy this novel and while some Austen fans might shudder at a 21stcentury (and Australian!) version I think Fiona Palmer is to be congratulated on bringing the strong character of the original Elizabeth Bennett right up to date. I think Jane Austen would approve.
Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Hachette Australia for the opportunity read this very pleasing novel.
15 of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer. You can read their reviews in the comments section below, or contribute your own. Comments may contain spoilers.