Author: Tricia Stringer
Dust On The Horizon was released last May and it has been on my radar ever since, but it never quite made it to the top of the pile. The next story in the series is due to be released this May and I was determined to be caught up before then. I found myself with, not quite a gap in my schedule but a space I could justify sliding this one in… so I did.
The Flinders Ranges series is set in South Australia in the 19th Century, it started with Heart of the Country and continues with Dust on the Horizon; the third book is Jewel of the North and I am really looking forward to it’s release. I have read both books so it’s difficult to know for sure but I think that you could happily read Dust on the Horizon without having read Heart of the Country and you wouldn’t lose too much but it’s also great to have the whole story and I loved the first book so you should definitely start there if you can.
Joseph Baker and his young family live and work on their pastoral lease at Smith’s Ridge, right next door to his childhood home at Wildu Creek. The land is harsh and drought is upon the country making life difficult for farmers across the state.
Stringer has stepped back into the South Australia she explored with ease and carried on the story seamlessly, the small town of Hawker is growing and the cast list of the series is expanding.
Tolerance and respect are traits that Joseph has learned from his family, and the fact that his life was saved by a native when he was little more than a boy mean Joseph has a very different relationship with the local natives than many of his neighbours. Stringer explores the effect that his relationship with natives has on the way he is perceived by the locals in the nearby town of Hawker.
In Heart of the Country Thomas had natives working for him and they had a respectful relationship which still saw them retaining some distance. Joseph was raised to recognise natives as people, which is something not everyone did. Binda saved Joseph’s life and they became blood brothers and best friends. Joseph looked beyond the difference in their skin colours and treated him like an equal which made him enemies among the other farmers and the townspeople.
I was captivated by young William Baker who was a precocious six year old when the story began, raised on Smith’s Ridge in close proximity to Binda and his family; at an age where he is really starting to notice what’s going on around him and how people treat each other. His encounters with racism in Hawker stay with him and it is interesting to watch how it affects him and what changes it makes to the way that he relates to the people around him throughout the course of the novel. William is definitely a boy living beyond his years, in the beginning that is simply because he watches and listens to all that goes on around him and as he grows he needs to help out more and more around the property.
Dust on the Horizon is an historical saga spanning more years than most books so we see great growth and change in families, properties and the town. A decade is a long time in the late 19th century and we watched on through many changes, though not a lot of change in attitudes.
This is a tale of love, loss and old vendettas as they carry on through the generations so it’s not just the story of the Bakers. Henry Wiltshire and his young bride open a store in Hawker, Henry is hoping this is only the first step in the diverse portfolio he plans to build; by any means possible. Henry was an arrogant man who rubbed me the wrong way from the very first pages. He was a sleazy opportunist who wanted the world but would prefer someone else to do the hard work. I kept expecting worse from him, which at times was a pretty big ask. His wife was a kind and sweet woman who I couldn’t help but feel deserved better.
Jack Aldridge is a young man with a massive chip on his shoulder who has lived his life trapped between two worlds, not really accepted in either and convinced that he has been robbed of what could have been, and determined that someone will pay.
Dust on the Horizon is a character driven tale focusing on the people, the relationships and the time in the development of our young country. It’s not action packed and suspenseful though there are some dynamics that leave you wondering how they will be resolved. I still found this to be a captivating read I had trouble putting down. It has left me eagerly anticipating the release of Jewel of the North in a couple of months. I have some theories about what the final book will bring but will have to wait and see.
Dust on the Hoirizon is book #11 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.
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