Book Club: The Saddler Boys

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Author: Fiona Palmer
ISBN: 978-0-14-379979-5
RRP: $32.99

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.

the saddler boys

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

You can find Fiona on Facebook, Twitter, her Website and Goodreads.

The Saddler Boys is available through Penguin and from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

10 thoughts on “Book Club: The Saddler Boys

  1. Definitely a book that will leave you wanting to reach the end to see how it all pans out. I found as I was reading this book that it reminded me of my favourite tv show McLeod’s Daugthers so when I read reference to that show further on, I did have a bit of a chuckle.

    It’s not hard to fall in love with the characters of schoolteacher Natalie, handsome dad Drew and his adorable son Billy. I wanted to just read more of where these characters would entwine with each other. Natalie is engaged to another man whom I didn’t take to and actually found his part in the start of the book a bit of a lost cause…..I just wanted to get back to the story of Billy and his dad.

    There are many other characters in the book that you will also love. Real small town community characters that you warm to straight away.

    I loved how Fiona wrote about trying to save the local school and it shows how all the characters bond together to fight for what they believe in. I too came from a place that wanted to close a small school down so I could totally relate to that story.

    I could not put this book down and just read it in one day. It truly is a beautiful read and at times I would feel anxious reading about Natalie and her life from a wealthy family.

    I’ve read some of Fiona’s books in the past and have always loved her style of writing.

    A word of warning, do have a tissue to hold as I found tears do abound towards the end. Thoroughly loved this book. The cover represents the main characters so well too.

    Thanks Beauty&Lace for another great Australian author to read. Thank you also to Fiona Palmer for another beautiful book.

  2. The Saddler Boys is a heart wrenching story of a small community with their small school being the centre as so often is in country towns.
    A city Teacher who relocates to take a years posting and how deeply the school, her students, the country people and even chooks impact on her life is totally engrossing.
    The subjects of Domestic Violence, Drug Addiction, Special Needs Children and ‘doing the right thing’ are all touched.
    Dealing with the devastating news of the local School being closed down due to smaller number of students in the future is an ongoing problem that is continuing Australia wide, and the steps that the Community take to try to keep their School open.
    I found that I was waiting for a romance to occur but could not see how it was going to happen until the end of the book but I can say I was hoping it would.
    A very interesting read and I will be reading more of Fiona Palmer’s book in the future. I know many people will enjoy reading The Saddler Boys.

  3. I loved this book it hit home in some of the storyline having a grandson with special needs which requires a teacher like Nat who has compassion & understands the hurdles some children face.Small town that has to fight to keep their school so children won’t be bundled into a class of overcrowding & their struggles missed by an overworked teacher. I found this book entertaining & emotional towards the end but throughly enjoyed every page I turned & found Fiona Palmer brought every character to life & look forward to reading more of her books.

  4. ‘The Saddler Boys’ was my first Fiona Palmer novel and I loved it. I don’t know how I have gone so long without reading her work and I finally know what I have been missing. This was a beautiful book, full of heart and soul. The writing really made you feel as though you were there in Lake Biddy with Nat, Drew & Billy. The story follows Nat, who after graduating from university with her teaching degree takes a placement in Lake Biddy as a teacher. For her this placement is just as much about teaching and doing what she loves as it is about freeing herself from her family’s expectations. The contrasts between the city and this rural farming town are perfectly depicted. I could very easily see similarities between Lake Biddy and my own primary school growing up, this in turn also enables you to feel present within the story. Without giving too much information away there are definite highs and lows throughout the story from the threat of the school closure, family dramas and new friendships. This definitely isn’t just some flouncy story about a city girl who goes out bush. Overall I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be picking up another Fiona Palmer novel soon. I highly recommend The Saddler Boys to anyone searching for a good Australian read.

  5. A lovely, easy but captivating read. Fiona Palmer’s “The Saddler Boys” kept me happily reading from first page to last. Fiona Palmer fully described small outback communities, their schools, community spirit and mateship, and then threw in some romance and drama. I loved the character Nat and hew adventurous spirit – boldly taking her dream job in a small outback community much to her family’s displeasure. I enjoyed her interpretation of her new home and position in the community. As a teacher myself I loved that Nat cared for her school, her students and their community – and that she had her own laminator (can I tell you everything looks better when you add laminate!). The last 2 chapters were my favourite although I am not going to spoil it for anybody. You will have to grab yourself a copy. Grab your jeans, flannelette shirt and boots and head off on paper to the community of Lake Biddy and the characters will keep you entertained until the last page. Thanks Beauty and Lace for letting me enjoy “The Saddler Boys” .

  6. I was very excited to receive my copy of The Saddler Boys. I knew that the story was about a young woman who was doing her first year of teaching in a remote location and this brought out the Mother in me as my youngest daughter is at Uni at the moment and when she completes her Uni studies she will be teaching Grade 1 children in a remote location so straight away I felt as if there was some sort of connection. I felt proud of Nat for taking her job so very seriously and wanting to be the best teacher possible for the children. I loved her true connection and caring for the children in her class. Her concern over a sick child and her willingness to fight to save a school that she has fallen in love with.
    I drew a further connection when Nat became engaged to a guy that although he was a nice guy he perhaps wasnt the right guy. Thats another thing that Ive been through with another one of my daughters. I felt like I wanted to pull Nat aside and give her a caring motherly talk but of course as the reader I was only able to hope everything would sort itself out and things would be fine and right with the world.
    I really delighted in this story and felt strong connections very early. I loved do many of the characters and felt a sadness when I had reached the end of the book as I wanted the story to continue.
    This would make a wonderful Christmas holiday read. Perfect book for the Summer holidays. I feel that everyone would enjoy this book.
    Sad to think that from the aspect of small schools in remote locations that they do close without much warning and they also struggle to get good teachers. This is something that is a concern here in Australia and good on Fiona Palmer for basing her book around this topic.

  7. Thank you for the opportunity to review this charming Australian
    book, the Saddler Boys. As a pre-service teacher living in a rural town I felt the genuine passion Fiona Palmer has towards the rural Australia and the understanding of the struggles the farming communities face on a daily basis. I really enjoyed the Aussie slang and the affectionate nicknames the characters had for each other. The contrast between the city and the country was vividly portrayed as was the underlying message that material things don’t guarantee happiness.

    It was effortless to fall in love with all the characters Natty, Drew, Billy and their friends. I related to Nat’s passion for the local school and her students. It was tragic that the close community lost their school due to funding cuts; however as in real life rural communities band together in fight and readjust when battles are lost. I really loved the Saddler Boys, this is the first Fiona Palmer novel I have read. I will definitely read and recommend her books.

  8. Thumbs up to Fiona palmer was my first Fiona palmer book and I must say I have a huge soft spot for the country books. I was addicted after the first couple of pages which was great because it’s been a long time since my last novel and it reminded me of growing up with the small communities and the friendly townships a novel like this pulls at the heart strings from her love of the children and the school and the Romance. I must say I will be looking more into Fiona palmer novels she’s got me addicted

  9. Let me start by saying what a wonderful book this was to read! This is the first book by Fiona Palmer that I have read and I liked her style of describing not only the scenery and people but she also gave it that extra feel that you knew how the characters were feeling every step of the way. The story was very familiar having grown up in a small town and the issues faces in a farming community and the threat of school and shop closures and the pressures felt, but this story was more than that the author went into depth that showed the raw emotion of how the community felt. The story allowed the characters to break from the typical stereo types of what they should be like and with just enough romance thrown in to give an added dimension to the story. Just LOVED it, thank you for the opportunity.

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