Book Club: Suddenly One Summer

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Author: Fleur McDonald
ISBN: 978-1-76029-395-6
RRP: $29.99
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

Fleur McDonald has made a name for herself in the rural genre but the novels I have read of hers have been more suspenseful. Suddenly One Summer is her tenth novel and another colourful rural fiction heavy on suspense.

I finished reading this too long ago and let life get in the way, now I’m unmotivated and procrastinating so have spent too much time thinking about some of the characters in McDonald’s work.

The leading lady in Suddenly One Summer is Brianna Donahue, a West Australian farmer, wife and mother whose own mother mysteriously disappeared when she was just three years old. Her body has never been recovered so there has been no closure for Brianna and her father Russell as they continue to farm in Merriwell Bay where she disappeared from.

Brianna is spread thin with her work on the farm and raising the boys almost single-handedly while Caleb is a fly-in fly-out criminal lawyer in Perth.

In a horrific birthday disaster her eldest son Trent goes missing early one sweltering summer morning. The search is heart-breaking and enough to bring back memories of a long ago search that didn’t end so well. Trent is found but this sparks a series of events that leave us questioning much of what is going on in the story.

Across the border in small town South Australia Detective Dave Burrows, who has featured in previous novels, receives a call from an elderly farmer reporting stolen sheep. The first visit to the farm shows Dave and his parner that the farmer is beginning to show signs of dementia, and he is living all alone. Detective Burrows is not one to turn his back on someone who is clearly in need and does his best to try and find help for him.

Detective Burrows is the character I spent too much of the afternoon thinking about because I know he is a recurring character in at least some of McDonald’s novels but I’m not sure just how many. These novels are all stand alone, there is no series, but Detective Burrows and his wife Kim have featured in multiple though I’m not sure how many.

Alternating chapters tell the unfolding story of Brianna, her rocky marriage and life on the farm; and the interesting case Detective Burrows is investigating of the missing sheep. All the while you are left wondering how the stories are connected.

As if speculation about the connections between Brianna and the Burrows case isn’t enough to keep you turning pages long after lights out there is also the scattered snippets about a mysterious badly beaten woman found wandering the highway with complete amnesia.

McDonald has written a suspenseful jigsaw of a story that doesn’t fall into place until the final long held secrets are brought to light.

I live in a small country town, it’s a town that’s growing and isn’t that far from suburbia, but I really have no idea about life on a farm. I know that things are different on a farm and life for kids is different, there are different responsibilities and different rules but I couldn’t get past the ages of the children in this one, I feel that I would have connected better had they been a few years older. This may be normal freedoms for farm life but I couldn’t get my head around it or come to grips.

Suddenly One Summer was a book that kept me guessing with suspenseful storylines, slow burning clue drops and a big finish. I really enjoyed it and it was another one that made me want to go back and catch up on all the novels in her backlist that I have missed.

Suddenly One Summer returns McDonald to her rural roots after the release of The Missing Pieces of Us earlier this year. She is definitely not an author to miss and I will be keeping her on my watch list. Her next release is another novel with Det. Burrows and I will keep it on my radar.

Suddenly One Summer is book #47 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.

Fleur McDonald loves to hear from her readers and you can find her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Suddenly One Summer is published by Allen & Unwin and available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading Suddenly One Summer so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.


19 thoughts on “Book Club: Suddenly One Summer

  1. Suddenly One Summer by Fleur McDonald was an enjoyable and intriguing read. Having read a couple of Fleur mcDonalds books before, I really wanted to read this one and it definitely didn’t disappoint.
    The book tells us two different stories that are set in Australia in different states. The first, set in Western Australia, is the story of Brianna and her family who live on a farm. The second is set in South Australia and features Detective Burrows , who is also a recurring character in a few of Fleur Mc Donald’s novels. These are told in alternating chapters. Each chapter keeps you guessing as to how the two stories will connect. And WOW! when they do.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will definitely recommend it to others. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Allen & Unwin for giving me the opportunity to read and review this wonderful book.

  2. This book gripped me from the first page. Usually I can very quickly predict how books will end, this one, however, kept me guessing until the very end. Just when I thought I’d figured it out it twisted again.
    This is the first book from this author that I have read and I have to say that Fleur is a wonderful, very talented, storyteller. The descriptions made me feel like I was there and yet didn’t overwhelm the story, the characters were authentic, although I must admit I did wonder about the maturity and freedoms given to the Terrors – although that could just be me as a city slicker.
    Overall a fantastic book that I’d highly recommend and I can’t thank Beauty and Lace Book Club and Allen & Unwin enough for choosing me to receive a free copy to read and review. Fleur McDonald will definitely be added to my favourite authors list and I can’t wait to read more of her books.

  3. Suddenly One Summer by Fleur McDonald
    What a wonderful read… This is a story for anyone who wanders what life in the country is like. I was able to really connect with the story as only days ago I drove through country NSW, VIC and SA. It has always been a mystery to me how the people live in the country and this story satisfied my curiosity.
    This story draws us into the life of Brianna Donahue, a young mum with two adventures boys, who is trying to juggle life on a farm and a challenging marriage.
    Brianna’s life is turned upside down with any mothers worst nightmare- her son goes missing. This leads to twists and turns and a side story of a detective that has you guessing right up to the end.
    I would recommend this book to anyone.

  4. SUDDENLY One Summer is not your average rural book. Fleur McDonald leaves you questioning right up to nearly the end of this novel. This is not the kind of story that you can guess what happens from the first chapter.
    Brianna Donahue’s mother disappeared when she was just three and her body was never found, and now Brianna works the same land with her father Russell while raising her two children, with her husband being a fly-in, fly-out lawyer in Perth.
    When Brianna’s son goes missing, Brianna questions the strength of her marriage and whether her husband is finding romance elsewhere.
    McDonald’s longtime character, Detective Dave Burrows, returns in this story and he travels more than 2000km to interview elderly farmer Guy who is in the early stages of dementia. Dave and his partner Jack question whether Guy really has had sheep stolen or whether it’s the dementia making him believe there were sheep. Dave’s wife, Kim – also a longtime character of McDonald’s, gets involved as she researches Guy’s family history.
    Guy’s story and Brianna’s story becomes entwined and, as Brianna battles bushfires threatening her family’s property, secrets will come out that will change their lives.
    This is one novel I couldn’t put down and had me guessing until the end. It is suspenseful and exciting and heartwarming, all at once.

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