By Jennifer Scoullar
Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Jennifer Scoullar for the opportunity to read and review The Memory Tree.
This is the third book in the Tasmanian Tales by Scoullar and I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to read and review each one. I loved the first two books in the series (Fortune’s Son and The Lost Valley) and was eagerly awaiting the release of The Memory Tree, and it did not disappoint. While the book can be read as a stand-alone, reading the prior two books will make for a richer experience.
The Memory Tree is again set in the beautiful yet fictional Binburra Wildlife Park in Tasmania. While the prior two books were set in the significant past, The Memory Tree is more contemporary. The characters have mobile phones, and listen to CD’s of artists such as Sade but the actual time period is not specified to allow for the fictional characters and events.
Matt Abbott is the ranger at Binburra where he lives with his wife Penny. The main focus of the park is the breeding and conservation of Tasmanian Devils, at threat of extinction from a contagious cancer, Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), but additionally serves to rescue, rehabilitate and, where possible, release injured birds and animals. For those unable to be released back to the wild, Binburra provides a safe haven for them to live out their lives.
At direct odds with Matt is his father Fraser Burns Abbott, mining and timber magnate. Fraser subscribes to a clear felling policy which is destroying Tasmania’s old world forests. Fraser is also responsible for the death of Matt’s mother and his younger twin sisters in a car accident while drunk, for which Matt has never forgiven him.
Enter Dr Sarah Deville of UCLA, a human cancer geneticist who is doing work on a devil genotyping project in the hope of breeding out DFTD. Sarah arrives at Binburra based on her concern that there isn’t sufficient genetic variety in the insurance animals at Binburra to ensure success in defeating DFTD.
Sarah is a woman who believes in getting what she wants; and will stop at little to get it. Her arrival at Binburra coincides with a time when Matt and Penny are having some struggles in their marriage. Matt has a secret, named Theo, and no matter how much he wishes to talk to Penny about it he finds he can’t. As the secret gnaws away at him, he becomes more taciturn and pulls away from Penny. Sarah, sensing that things are not quite right between Matt and Penny, has no qualms about not only making a play for Matt but also stirring the pot in order to ensure that things get worse between them. As emotions rise, Sarah’s actions lead to a deadly end.
Scoullar deftly mixes fact and fiction as she weaves into her story the anti-logging protests that occurred in Tasmania, and the fight to save the Tassie Devil with a fictional corrupt Tasmanian premier, Kate Logan, (not to be confused with any of the Kate Logan’s currently involved in Australian political positions!), the Lost Valley, home to the last of the Thylacines (The extinct Tasmanian Tiger) and how the Lost Valley is impacted by the mining industry.
And at the heart of the book is Pallawarra, the memory tree, that has spanned from time immemorial and may yet bring a family in danger of being torn apart back together.
Scoullar’s descriptions, particularly of scenes such as the eagles, are absolutely breathtakingly achingly beautiful and her ongoing work to bring the plight of the Tassie Devil to life through her books is to be commended.
Highly recommended. I give it 4.5 stars.
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading The Memory Tree. You can read their comments below, or contribute to the discussion by leaving your own feedback.