Starting from Scratch by Penelope Janu is a rural romance with a conscience. It takes up the cause of climate change and the environment as well as dealing with addiction and the impact it has on families. Penelope Janu is an award-winning Australian author whose novels have an environmental focus and feature strong women.
Sapphie Brown has had a tough upbringing, losing her mother in an accident when she was a child and being estranged from her father. She finally feels that she’s found a place to call home in the country community of Horseshoe Hill.
Sapphie keeps herself terribly busy, maybe too busy, she teaches at the local school (living in the schoolhouse) chairs the local environmental committee, helps troubled teens at the youth centre and cares for ex-racehorses. She does much of this work at an old farmhouse which she has fallen in love with.
Unexpectedly an old childhood friend, Matts Laaksonen, appears. He says he’s here to warn her but suddenly he’s popping up everywhere. Sapphie and Matts were very close as children in South America and Canberra. It’s not evident at first what caused the rift between them but it is clear that Sapphie hasn’t forgiven him for a betrayal and doesn’t want to give him a second chance. Matts is a highly regarded environmental engineer and joins the local environmental committee. As well as the tension between them as the story progresses there is an obvious physical attraction.
The descriptions of the Australian bush are a feature of this novel, which given Sapphie’s environmental focus works very well. She also loves to create flowers from paper and has a very creative eye for colour – she doesn’t see just one colour but many shades so where most people would see yellow she sees “Saffron, lemon, amber and gold”. This recurrent theme throughout the book made me start looking at nature and considering the many different hues and shades in colours.
It was thought-provoking to read a rural romance that has such an emphasis on the environment. As a country, we must deal with the many environmental problems our beautiful country is struggling with before it’s too late Introducing these ideas through popular fiction is an effective approach, reaching people who might not normally read about these issues.
I enjoyed reading this novel and its focus on important issues only added to the story. Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read this enjoyable rural romance.
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Starting from Scratch by Penelope Janu. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.
Copy courtesy of Harper Collins
I was brought up on the classics in the UK but now I’m a Pozzie (British by Birth, Australian by choice) I’m enjoying discovering Australian works, we have some terrific storytellers. I’ve been a member of a local book club for a decade or so and that has also widened my choice of reading. I agree wholeheartedly with Stephen King: “Books are a uniquely portable magic”