BOOK CLUB: Return to Roseglen

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Author: Helene Young
ISBN: 978-0-14-378774-7
RRP: $32.99
Publication Date: July 2, 2018
Publisher: Penguin RandomHouse – Michael Joseph
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

Helene Young is an Australian author I have admired, apparently from afar, since first reading her work in 2012. I have managed to miss all of her books since then but they remain firmly ensconced on my wish-list.

Return to Roseglen seems to be, if I can trust my very sketchy memory, quite different from the tense romantic suspense she has written previously. That’s not to say that …. actually I could be completely wrong because the more I think about it there are strong elements of suspense, secrets long buried and romantic tension awaiting a conclusion. Perhaps I was thinking it was very different because this is an extremely family oriented suspense and the main relationships being explored are familial, and the way that then relates to relationships outside of the family.

I have read quite a few books recently that relate to the passing of the family matriarch and the subsequent inheritances of the children, and it’s never pretty. Family is such an important element in all of our lives and when someone passes it should be a time that we come together to remember, to be thankful for the time we had and to cement our bonds through our grief but too often it becomes a battleground with lines drawn in the sand because some people are more worried about what they deserve and what they get than the connection and the history they’ve just lost.

Ivy Dunmore is a formidable matriarch who has been managing the family property for decades but time is no longer on her side and she is becoming frail, which is to be expected when you’re 93. I must say that my admiration for her ran deep because that’s an age I can’t really fathom, and to still be at home on your own and managing a cattle station. She has been slowing down since a quad bike accident three years ago but still managing.

The story is told in alternating chapters by Ivy and her two daughters, Felicity and Georgina. We get three unique perspectives and a slowly evolving puzzle of family relationships, betrayal, deceit and ambition.

Felicity is approaching her 50th birthday, working tons of overtime and dealing with a crisis in her own life. She has always been the easy-going, conflict-avoiding baby of the family. She has just discovered her husband in the most compromising of positions and faces a complete change of life as a marriage of almost 30 years is dissolved. A lot to deal with on top of an ailing mother who needs increasingly more attention as she is adamant that she doesn’t want to leave the family property though it’s clear that she can’t live on her own. Felicity, better known as Lissie, has always been quite close to her mother. She has oodles of empathy which makes her an amazing nurse, a career she has done beautifully with; even if she would have preferred to stay on the property if she was completely honest with herself.

Georgina is on the far side of sixty and flying aid missions but the company have decided to stop flying into Syria and Georgie is left with the dilemma of what to do next. She is a strong and fearless woman whose ambition saw her becoming a pilot when it was still a largely male dominated profession. The thought of returning home is double edged, her relationship with Ivy has always been quite fraught and Georgie has never really understood why. A trip home may be just what’s needed to try and make some amends while there is still time.

Ivy was a character that I absolutely adored, though she broke my heart. 93 years old and beginning to lose her independence, this is a massive blow for the woman who ruled the CWA for something like half a century, was community minded and always willing to help out where it was needed.  She has always been forthright, formidable and brutally honest but now she seems to be forgetting things an awful lot and just misses her dear husband, she is ready to be with him again but first there are skeletons in the family closet she hopes to air before it’s too late.

Return to Roseglen is a story filled with strong women, and the family are finally realising that Lissie may just have more backbone than they ever gave her credit for. I am inclined to think that maybe it was always there inside of her but it took something big for her to need to put it to use. Ella is Felicity’s daughter, also a pilot, and a strong willed young woman who has inherited the best of all the Dunmore women.

All of these women are deeply connected to the family station, some weren’t quite aware of the depth of that connection. Unfortunately the way family succession often goes in farming, and business, is that the first son inherits the bulk. Ken Dunmore is, well I actually have quite a few things I’d like to say about Ken Dunmore but they wouldn’t be very nice. Ken is the eldest of the Dunmore offspring, and he has stayed close; with a cattle station bordering Roseglen.

Drought is wreaking havoc in North Queensland and keeping the station is looking less certain, but the biggest threat isn’t necessarily from the weather. Can Lissie and Georgie help Ivy sort out the threats before it’s too late?

Sibling rivalry can be a bitter battle and the lines have always been drawn between Ken and Georgie, Lissie on the other hand always removed herself from the conflict. Ken has more than just a chip on his shoulder and he is a character I found despicable. Smarmy and charming in public but a nasty, entitled manipulator where he thinks no-one can see. I spent the whole book hoping he would get caught out and taken to task.

Helene Young has explored some very topical issues in a way that was emotional, sensitive and intuitive. I fell in love with all of the strong Dunmore women she has created and the men that truly knew how to love them.

Ivy was a formidable woman with a huge heart and a lot of love, that she often didn’t know how to show. It was interesting to see how her daughters looked back on their childhoods from the new perspective of middle age and saw their mother in a very different light, it can’t change the past or take away the years of hurt but it can certainly allow a little understanding.

I still have so much to say and I’m just not sure how to do it without throwing spoilers in so I will leave it at a captivating exploration of family, abuse, succession and the far-reaching consequences of secrets that need to be kept. I actually spent quite a large chunk of tonight’s reading time with a wetness hovering in my eyes at the beauty, the heartbreak and the power of forgiveness and moving forward.

Young explores new beginnings and massive directional changes still open to you in middle age and that it’s never to late to chase your happiness and follow your dreams. An amazing read that explored so many aspects of life on the land, life in the years following the second world war and the power of sibling solidarity. A book that I would unreservedly recommend.

Return to Roseglen is book #31 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.

Helene Young can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and her Website.

Return to Roseglen is published by Penguin RandomHouse and available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Penguin RandomHouse 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading Return to Roseglen so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

10 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Return to Roseglen

  1. Return to Roseglen by Helene Young, Young is another author that I haven’t read any of her books before, I will definitely be reading her other books now!
    RTR is the story of the Dunmore’s, 93 year old Ivy is still living on her cattle station Roseglen, but she is getting frail, with the drought yet to break it seems everything she knows and loves is slipping away.
    Her son Ken is becoming increasingly difficult and manipulative to deal with, daughter Felicity is always willing to come and help her out, but she’s dealing with her own life crisis and oldest daughter Georgina has always had a rocky relationship with Ivy and hasn’t been home for quite a few years.
    All the siblings are reunited again as the girls arrive home to help Ivy sort out her affairs, which turns out to be a bigger issue to deal with than they imagined.
    Amongst all the turmoil old flames are reunited, is there still a chance to rekindle lost loves?
    RTR deals with so many issues, all without being to complex, getting older, menopause, love, elder abuse just to name a few.
    I thoroughly enjoyed RTR, it dealt with some complex issues and really got you thinking, as well as the suspense and intrigue to how it was all going to turn out and what Ivy’s secret was.
    Huge thanks to Penguin books and Beauty and Lace for the chance to review Return to Roseglen, and Helene for the personally signed book that arrived in the mail, what a lovely surprise!

  2. ✍I laughed, I cried (lots) and I couldn’t put it down – Return to Roseglen written by Helene Young and published by Penguin, is a beautifully told, gritty and poignant story about family. Not your rosy cheeked, picture perfect, white picket fence type family, but a real family. A family of very distinct personalities each one struggling with their own personal demons as well as the problems that they are now forced to deal with together.

    The story centers around 93 year old widow, Ivy Dunmore, mother of three, grandmother of four who lives at Roseglen, a remote cattle property in Queensland. Age has crept up on her and having been active and capable all her life, a recent accident on her quad bike means she now doesn’t know how long she can cope on her own.

    Through the coming together of the Dunmore family and through the dynamic between them (mother/child, husband/wife and amongst siblings) as well as those closest to them, a number of social truths are discussed, including the vulnerabilities of getting old, expectations and disappointments in life and regrets about paths not taken.

    Whilst these topics sound quite heavy and depressing, this is far from true and they are woven into the story with great skill, making the characters so real and vulnerable that you cant help but relate to them.

    Helene Young is a fantastic storyteller, and clearly a keen observer of life, she is one who I will definitely be reading more of!! An excellent, thought provoking read. Highly recommended.

  3. Return To Roseglen looked as though it would be wonderful from the moment I opened the parcel and it didn’t disappoint in any way. The thoughtful touch from the author, Helene Young, sending the book wrapped beautifully in wrapping paper and personally signed by Helene is very much appreciated.

    The book is just brilliant, from start to completion. Rarely have I read such a beautifully written and powerful book that deals with a wide range of subjects that are often controversial that are told as part of the story without any hint of preaching or being overdone.

    Helene has dealt with ageing and many issues that arise and made Ivy, at 93 a vibrant and wonderful woman, beyond her era but with issues still to be resolved before she departs this earth. As well as ageing the subject of cruelty/bullying/harassment woven in to the family relationships is covered. Not once do you feel anything dealt with isn’t done through the characters who are very real individuals. Love in its many forms and family relationships both good and bad is a constant theme. Georgina and Felicity are lovely human beings who become real people as the story unfolds. Not one of the characters is false.

    The way the story evolves, the way the characters, both lovely and horrid are drawn, makes for one of the best books I’ve read recently. I can’t thank Beauty and Lace and Penguin through Michael Joseph books enough for this incredible book. Helene Young is a master story teller. Thank you to Helene for writing such a special book. This one will stay with me only being loaned to special people who I know will return it. Without doubt, a fabulous book.

  4. Thank you so much Beauty and Lace for introducing me to another great Aussie author Helene, Young and a special thank you to Helene for sending me the beautifully gift wrapped ‘Return to Roseglen’ the first of Helene’s novel’s I’ve been fortunate enough to read and I can’t wait to add her other titles to my TBR pile.

    The setting comes to life, and makes you want to visit ‘Roseglen’ and stay the night, so you too can wake to a glorious sunrise, leaning on the balcony railing enjoying your first cuppa, listening to the chorus of birds winding up to welcome the day. You instantly fall in love with Mrs D, Sinbad the Siamese, who never strays far from Ivy’s lap, Georgie, Lissie and Ella, and your dislike for Ken grows as you turn each page. Both Mitch and Dan are the kinda blokes you wouldn’t hesitate to take home to meet your mum, and their strength of character leaves no doubt that they love and care for their women, and I’m sure Ivy’s splattered CWA cookbook had pride of place on her kitchen bench top.

    The family dynamic is so relevant, elder abuse, deception, Alzheimer’s, divorce, menopause, retirement, domestic violence, sibling rivalry, farm succession, tradition and inheritance. Not your usual happily ever after ‘Brady Bunch’ style novel, but one that harnesses the nitty gritty, emotional strength, fortitude and the resilience of a Dunmore who has traipsed those well-worn carpets for sixty of her ninety-three years, in a homestead that had stood the test of time for over one hundred and twenty years. The various quotes throughout the book bought back fond memories ‘The sum of two halves was greater than their individual worth’ one I remember my mum quoting on more than one occasion.

    I loved that Ivy was a purist, never wavering from Charlie’s golden rule of letting the working dogs inside to ward of the winter chill, insisting that outside line drying was the ONLY appropriate way to deal with laundry, and still drinking a cold cup of tea, quoting the old adage ‘waste not, want not.’ Yet so twentieth century, utilising internet banking, and dealing with hanging up the phone after three attempts and still not managing to speak to a real person.

    This book sits at the top of my favourite books list and I hope that you enjoy reading as much as I have and who knows maybe you CAN do two good things at the same time and ‘have your shortbread and eat it TOO!’

  5. What I love about the Beauty and Lace Book Club is that I keep discovering brilliant Australian authors and my to read list grows. Return to Roseglen is a stand alone novel written by Helene Young, an author I will now look forward to reading more of. I am so lucky I now have an autographed copy to add to my ever growing collection.

    I was immediately held captive by the engaging characters – The Dunmore women, Ivy, Felicity and Georgina, Whilst we get to the know the family you are immediately falling in love with Roseglen the family property a key feature in this well written story.

    Ivy is the family matriarch who has been running the property in the far north solo until she was injured coming off a quad bike, not bad for a woman in her nineties. She felt so real to me and I could easily relate to her get it done attitude that many who live on the land have. It did not take long for me to dislike her son Ken as I started to question his motives and care of Ivy. Felicity and Georgina are her daughters who live away from the property. Felicity a nurse lives in Brisbane with her husband Todd and has two older children Sean and Ella while Georgina is a pilot flying humanitarian missions overseas who is separated from her husband Dan.

    Through the alternating chapters of each of the women, Helene Young weaves a storyline that is real and so relatable as each of the women deal with their past and present decisions. Return to Roseglen touched on many social issues and I think that is why it is so relatable. Surrounding these women are other endearing characters and you can’t put the book down until you know whether they will all be ok.

    I did not want to put this book down and wanted my train trips home from work to last longer so I could keep reading. Highly recommend it and thank Helene for the beautiful wrapped copy that arrived, Beauty and Lace and Penguin Australia for the opportunity to read and review this beautiful story. I could write so much more but I want you to experience the joy of reading this book without to many spoilers.

  6. Return to Roseglen is definitely the best book I’ve read this year. From the first chapter, I couldn’t put it down. I was sad when I finished reading the book, and the characters lingered in my mind for days after…all this tells you how much I loved the book!
    Helene Young’s story of families, sibling rivalry, marriages, aging, and parental love is so engaging and believable, I also particularly loved her poetic descriptions of the Australian outback.
    Definitely a must read!

  7. 4.5****Helen Young has always been a author whose books I’ve enjoyed and when I heard that she had a new one coming out I was very excited and when I heard that it was a different genre to her previous books, I was still excited as she’s such a good author that I was sure it would be a great book. Thanks to Beauty and Lace Book Club I was able to prove my theory correct, she has done a great job of dealing with a difficult and emotional issue of family members who abuse their elderly parents and grandparents. After 8 pages I had to put the book down as Ken, Ivy’s son made me so angry I didn’t want to read any further. Alas I picked it back up and had to hope that by the end of the book Ken would get what he deserved. I did have to put the book down several times to process what I’d read and deal with the emotions it invoked in me. Ivy also has two daughters, Felicity and Georgina and a granddaughter Ella who are there to support her while they are also working through their own issues. I loved meeting these characters who had some growing and re-evaluating to do if they wanted to get on with their lives and be happy. I loved Ivy’s neighbour Mitch who was a great friend to both Ivy and Felicity and Dan, Georgina’s ex husband was a lovely guy too, and I hoped so much they would work through their baggage and be happy. Throughout the story there is an underlying mystery that is hinted at which if it is discovered, could change everything. The characters in this story are older than most books seem to focus on these days, and it made a nice change to be dealing with an older age group, who have got lives and baggage that they need to work through. I hope Helen continues to write more in this genre as it was a fabulous read.

  8. Return to Roseglen by Helene Young is one of the most realistic books I have read for a long time.
    All of the character are real people with many faults that Helene Young doesn’t sugarcoat.
    The topics that are explored will have you laughing along with them but spend more time with tears in your eyes
    as you follow the frustration of Ivy Dunmore, the main character, starting to realise her 93 year old body is getting frail
    and not as healthy as she once was.
    Ivy is thinking she is getting very forgettful until is is uncovered her son is the cause of this.
    He is a nasty person who has had everything handed to him and expects himself to be the centre of the world.
    His two sisters Georgina (Georgie) and Felicity (Lissie) are strong women in their own ways, and Ella, Lissie’s daughter,
    is another strong Dunmore woman.
    There are love interests, Dan, Georgie’s ex husband, and Mitch.
    Mitch was Lissie’s crush as a young girl and has become Ivy’s best friend and confidant.
    The setting is Roseglen, a North Queensland Cattle Station that is suffering in drought.
    We learn of the harsh life on a cattle station and the lengths that are taken to keep it running.
    The sibling rivalry may be the catlyst that destroys the family home.
    A wonderful book, rich with the love of families and the hearbreak of losing someone dear to them.
    I will definatley recommend Return to Roseglen and have classed it as one of my best reads for the year.

  9. Return to Roseglen is a poignant story of family and ageing, sibling rivalry and entitlement, long held secrets and second chances.
    I fell in love with Ivy Dunmore by page 2 and that feeling didn’t waiver throughout the book. Helene Young had written a heartfelt story filled with strong women and the most wonderful supportive men I’ve read about in a long time.

    No one is perfect and Young shows through her characters that we all make mistakes but we should not let our mistakes define us.
    Return to Roseglen will have you contemplating your own life, especially if you have ageing parents.
    Young is the master of emotion as the story had my tears welling, my anger rising and at other times I was happily celebrating the triumphs along with the characters.

    I would recommend Return to Roseglen to anyone who enjoys a compelling family drama.
    Thank you to Helene Young and Beauty & Lace for my copy.

  10. Thanks Beauty and Lace for introducing me to Helene Young and her gorgeous novel Return to Roseglen and her amazing characters Ivy and her daughters Georgina and Felicity and that rotter Ken.
    The story had me hooked from the beginning and I loved that it’s primary characters were older people with their relevant issues – aging and the heart wrenching decisions that go with that, retirement and then the nasty nasty Ken.
    5***** for a thoroughly entertaining read – I was sad when I got to the last page – thanks Helene

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