Author: Mary-Anne O’Connor
This story opens with 18 year old Junie Wallace in Braidwood, NSW, and with that I was hooked. I am a sucker for a book set in a well known place, and though I have never spent a lot of time in Braidwood it’s somewhere that I have always driven through on family holidays.
I have never really been a huge fan of books set during times of war, though of late there have been quite a few that involve the war and I have really enjoyed them.
Worth Fighting For had quite a slow start and it took me a while to really get invested after being hooked by Braidwood on the first page.
Junie Wallace is a very clever girl who loves her life on the farm, though it’s not quite as carefree as it once was. Her brothers are away fighting the war, her parents are struggling, her father is drinking and Junie has captured the attention of a wealthy local who steps in to keep the farm afloat – for a price.
Ernest Farthington was a detestable character who really just made my skin crawl from the very beginning. He was beyond egotistical and he thought his money could buy him whatever he wanted, and the fact that his mother enabled his belief in himself as the greatest gift to the universe certainly didn’t help.
Very early on I knew what I wanted to happen, how I wanted it all to play out and it wasn’t anything like what really happened which I think is a good thing because it made it much less predictable.
The amount of betrayal and dishonesty and adultery rampant throughout the novel was a little off putting, but it was important to the story. Junie was a very clever girl, she had the book smarts to come first in her year when she left school but she was still pretty naive about the ways of the world.
Junie was in love with a boy who wasn’t quite of her class but he was a good man and he loved her. Unfortunately Ernest had made his decision and put Junie in a position where she didn’t feel that she could follow her heart, for the good of her family she felt she had to make the marriage of convenience and ensure her brothers had a home to return to.
This wasn’t an ideal situation and those who knew were totally against her making the choice to sacrifice her happiness but Junie was known for her selflessness and she wanted to do what she could for her family. As Junie moves towards her future as Mrs Farthington the second world war moves ever closer to home.
Worth Fighting For includes some fascinating historical war facts and detail that allowed me a view of the war that I hadn’t had previously. The bombings of Pearl Harbor, Darwin and Sydney are all included for a look at the ripple effect it had and the way that so many lives from across the world are entwined.
O’Connor starts the novel in Braidwood but being wartime the characters are quite well traveled so we spend time in Braidwood, Sydney, Darwin, Hawaii, Port Moresby and the New Guinea rainforests.
Junie’s marriage is a lie but that is only the beginning of the web of lies she finds herself in. I could understand and empathise with her agreeing to the marriage but after that things seemed to get all a little too tangled even for her. The lies built until they towered over her and she wasn’t sure how to get out. I could understand her getting in the situation but after that she really did make things worse for herself. She may have spent a lot of her life as the very plain smart girl but once she filled out she started attracting attention and it takes her a long time to realise it, some of her predicaments could have been avoided with a little less naivety.
Ultimately Worth Fighting For is a tale of love, of hanging on and holding out hope when all seems lost. A tale of enduring through hardship and learning to live with the nightmares; a tale of hope, of loss, of friendship, betrayal and resilience. It’s also quite the illustration of the difference between the classes.
The world has come a long way since World War II, though at times it doesn’t really seem that far. The racism, the sexism and the ignorance was at times quite irritating to read, to think of the way people were treated because of their differences.
In the end I really loved this book, I enjoyed the way it played out though I did find the ending a little disappointing. There were some great twists that really messed with my emotional equilibrium but I think that’s the mark of a good book.
Worth Fighting For is book #58 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.
Everyone is going to have a different take on this one I think and I will be interested to hear what our readers think.
Thanks to Harlequin 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading Worth Fighting For so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.