BOOK CLUB: Matters of the Heart

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By Fiona Palmer

ISBN: 9780733641596 
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.  

matters of the heart

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.

10 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Matters of the Heart

  1. Thank you to Hachette Australia and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read this wonderful novel by Fiona Palmer!

    I really enjoyed this novel and could not put it down! If you enjoy Pride and Prejudice I think you will really enjoy this Australian version!

    Fiona Palmer has done a fantastic job with this novel and I am ecstatic to add it to my bookshelf. Definitely a book I can see myself reading again and again!

  2. Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Hachette Australia for the opportunity read this very pleasing novel.

    Pride and Prejudice, with an Australian twist! Fiona Palmer has used the characters from Jane Austin’s classice novel, moved them to Western Australia and the 21st century and it is fantastic. Set in a farming community, with the trials that come with it, a mother that wants her five daughters married and a rich new neighbour, anything could happen.

    No spoilers but will Miss Bennett get her Mr Darcy? Well read it and see.

  3. I loved Matters of the Heart, It inspired me to go looking for Pride and Prejudice (the film because the language in the book might do my head in these days).
    Palmer has brought the tale into the 21st Century with style and class, and a little bit of sass. Her characters are, as always, relatable and authentic.
    The story shines a light on the plight of many Australian farmers in the dry conditions and is a fantastic read which will engage lovers of a good romance as well as Austen fans.

  4. This is the first time I had read a Fiona Palmer novel and I really enjoyed her adaptation on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

    It is a story of life on a rural farm, hardship, friendships, dramas, romance and relationships
    The Bennet’s consisting of father John, mother Margaret and sisters Lizzy, Jane, Mary, Lydia and Kitty are a tight-knit family struggling to make ends meet with their farming property in WA. Lizzy is handed the reins to the farm as her father retires and begins to make headway with her hard work and passion for the farm.

    The farm adjoining the Bennet land is purchased by the wealthy Bingley family for their son Charles to manage. Lizzy and Charles to do get along and Lizzy find him arrogant and rude but Jane and Charles are instantly attracted to each other. Over the course being neighbouring farms there are misunderstandings, floods, pressures and challenges.

    If you want to know if pride wins or loses then I definitely recommend this book.

    Thank you to B&L and Hachette AU for my copy to read in exchange for my review.

  5. The story is told from the perspective of Lizzy who is one of five sisters on a family that owns a struggling farm. The book covers the struggles of the rural life, hardship, relationships and family. I didn’t mind Lizzy but I really liked Jane who was Lizzy’s older sister. Jane is sweet and newcomer Charlie who is from a wealthy family sets his eye on her, and we see the ups and downs play out in their story alongside Lizzy’s. Their mother is desperate to see them find suitable men to be married off to, but Lizzy’s first priority is to run the family farm.

    It took me a long time to get into the book and I did not overly enjoy the style of writing. The story ended happily in many ways, but I did find it was quite predictable.

  6. Thank you to Hachette Australia & Beauty and Lace Book Club for the opportunity to read this lovely book by Fiona Palmer.

    I must admit that I have never read Pride and Prejudice, have only seen the movies, but after reading Matters of the Heart it makes me want to read the original!

    What a lovely story this was, it was perfectly adapted to Australian rural life and told the story of the Bennet family who are struggling farmers with 5 daughters. The only daughter that loves the country life is Lizzy who has virtually taken over the running of the family farm. They have already sold off a portion of their land because of the lack of funds and are surprised to hear that a large neighbouring property that has been on the market for ages has been sold to the Bingley family of which Charles Bingley will be running it. They all meet and Lizzy’s sister Jane is immediately attracted to Charles and begins a romance with him. Meanwhile Charles’ best friend Will Darcy has also appeared and Lizzy is immediately turned off by his seemingly offhanded manner.

    Although the story was a little predictable I did like the slow burn of the romance between Will and Lizzy and the descriptions of farming life were very good including the local show and the community activities therein.

    A very nice book to read – a very nice ending and warm and fuzzy feeling within.

  7. This is a story of a farming family struggling to survive on the land in modern day times. A tale of a closely knit family – a father, a mother and their 5 daughters, the 2 eldest Lizzy and Jane are extremely close, the middle daughter Mary has left home to study and the youngest 2 girls’ Lydia and Kitty who typically reflect teenage girls with their fashion, phones and interest in boys’.
    The story unfolds when wealthy entrepreneur Charlie buys the neighbouring property and forms an instant reciprocated attraction to Jane. Alongside him is his best friend Will Darcy who initially Lizzy finds arrogant and irritating but gradually learns to see him for who he truly is. Really getting to know people and giving them a chance rather than basing one’s opinion on first appearances is explored throughout the book.
    This is a novel of romance and current day rural life in Australia. The essence of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is evident in Palmer’s novel. The classic story is told beautifully in modern day times. I found this an easy and enjoyable read. It was a nice reminder that being kind, considerate and non- judgemental are traits that contribute to us living more fulfilling and happier lives.

  8. Thoroughly enjoyed this modern retelling of one of my favourite classics Pride and Prejudice. Loved the rural Australian setting, it was an entertaining read with great characters. It was my first Fiona Palmer book but it definitely won’t be my last.

    Thank you Beauty & Lace and Hachette for the opportunity to review Matters of The Heart

  9. Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Hachette Australia for the opportunity read Matters of the Heart.

    I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down! A great read!

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