Author: Fiona Palmer
The Saddler Boys is another touching small town story that demonstrates Fiona Palmer’s connection with the land and the small town she lives in. I haven’t read nearly as many of her books as I would like but I have loved every one I have read and they drag me deeper in every time.
The Saddler Boys is dedicated to all of the communities that have lost their schools which is heartbreaking in itself and gives an inkling of what’s to come between the pages. Fiona remembers well the time that her small community lost their school and she has captured the community spirit and the will to fight beautifully in The Saddler Boys.
Natalie Wright is a city girl from a wealthy family who is embarking on her first posting as a school teacher, in a country school a couple of hours from Perth and her family. She is excited and looking forward to a year on her own to make her own decisions her way and maybe just find herself.
Natalie is way out of her comfort zone in the tiny town of Lake Biddy but as small towns often do, she is made to feel welcome and at home. Natalie quickly becomes accustomed to nicknames, no-one in Lake Biddy calls people by their full name so it isn’t long before she’s answering to Nat.
In her first posting as a junior primary teacher Nat is enthusiastic, bubbly and radiates the compassion and empathy you want in your childs first teacher. The Lake Biddy school is tiny and separated into just 2 classes which gives the teacher plenty of time to really get to know their students and that can be a great thing. I think a small school, and smaller classes, can give students who need that bit of extra attention a solid basis for their schooling.
Nat struggles to balance two very different sides of her life. She loves her fledgling career, the town she is posted to and most of all the gorgeous young characters in her class but they are very different to her very wealthy, very social family who are humouring her wish to teach with this one year posting but plan for her to come home, get married and start a family at the end of it – if they can’t convince her to come home sooner.
Billy is one of the young boys in her class and he is a little socially awkward, he doesn’t read social cues the way other kids do and he’s lucky that in his small school he is accepted, his father is worried it wouldn’t be the same in a different school. He is a clever and endearing child who rapidly burrows his way into Nat’s heart.
Drew Saddler, Billy’s father, is out on his farm alone with Billy. He sadly lost his mother a year ago and is trying to keep it all together as farmer and single dad, and is doing a great job. He has some great friends, who are more like family, and in a small town everyone is happy to help where they can.
All of these characters find a way to nestle deep in your heart from very early on. The small town sense of community and the desire to band together and fight for what they believe in.
In the single year that Nat is posted to the town they come across a lot of reasons to rally and Nat’s city contacts and know how come in handy, even while she is fast falling in love with the small town lifestyle.
Palmer writes with wit and a deep understanding of the small towns plight and the neverending work of the farmer. Her characters are well drawn and completely lovable; except for those that were never meant to be lovable, they are disinteresting or despicable as the case requires.
Nat has a beautiful heart and bubbly personality that draws people to her and she simply deserves the best, so when she is in a situation that shows that’s far from what she has you can’t help but feel for her, and want the situation resolved.
The Saddler Boys is sure to delight city and country readers alike. It brings together the best and the worst of both worlds and it left me with some seriously watering eyes.
10 of our lucky readers will also be reading The Saddler Boys so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.
The Saddler Boys is book #65 for The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2015