Author: Barbara Hannay
I received a copy of The Grazier’s Wife from NetGalley in return for an honest review back in July, I started reading but my download was corrupted and there was a section missing so I put it aside until I could get the file fixed. One book after another jumped onto the pile and I never quite made it back. Well, this week I decided that enough was enough and I couldn’t leave it any longer so picked it back up and started where I left off.
The Grazier’s Wife is a story of three generations told in two different time periods, meaning we have our feet firmly planted in the present with Seth Drummond and his family on their property, Ruthven Downs, and Alice who has moved to a small town nearby and opened a furniture restoration business.
Alice discovers an envelope hidden in the back of a mirror Jackie Drummond brings in to be re-silvered and this is how we are transported to Singapore in 1941 where Stella is nursing during the war.
The characters are diverse and well rounded, all with their fair share of baggage. I think Alice has the most heartbreaking tale and I couldn’t help but feel for her, even though at times you could see that there were steps she could have taken to help herself if only she made the choice to.
The life of a grazier’s wife is very different across the generations and Hannay has explored very different women for the role in different generations.
Stella grew up on property and when she went away to nurse in the war she told her mother she would come home, marry a grazier and raise a team of strapping young men. Things didn’t quite work out the way she had planned and through a memoir found long after her death we find out all about her experiences through the war and the long term effects when she came home.
Jackie came from a totally different world to the prosperous cattle station she married into. Growing up it was just her and her mother, who worked hard to keep them afloat and Jackie left school early to get a job. Marrying Hugh and moving to Ruthven Downs was a complete culture shock but she settled into life on the land and never shied away from long days and hard work. She never quite felt right at home surrounded by Hugh’s prosperous friends though they were never anything but friendly.
The third generation sees us focus on both of Jackie’s children to some extent, Seth is at home on the Ruthven Downs and set to inherit it all. He has some big plans but can’t start putting them into play until his dad retires, and he is raising his infant son with only the help of his parents. Flora, his sister, is away in Melbourne working as a professional violinist.
The woman in the third generation is Alice, she’s not a Drummond but the sparks between her and Seth are palpable from their first meeting. There are some pretty large obstacles in their way, that come in cute little packages. Alice has quite a tragic past that she has never quite moved on from so she has sworn off serious relationships for life and ended up in Burralea to avoid the stage of life all her friends are in with marriages and children on the near horizon.
There is lots of conflict and a fair element of suspense as you try to work out what actually happened and how it will all come together in the end. Alongside that is the sexual tensions between Seth and Alice and whether they will be able to overcome the obstacles in their path.
Some secrets are definitely best left buried but there are also times when the scariest of secrets, with the most life-changing consequences can actually make things work out better than anyone could have imagined. I would actually be interested to read a sequel that tells what happens to the Drummond family next.
I found it quite slow getting into The Grazier’s Wife, it didn’t grab me straight away and drag me in but the more I think about it I think that could be because I started it and then had such a big break before I got back to it. Overall it was an engaging story with intriguing characters who were well developed and quite complex. The story tackles quite a few big issues with sensitivity and maturity. Definitely worth the read and will have me keeping my eye out for more by Barabara Hannay.
The Grazier’s Wife is book #56 for the Australian Writer’s Challenge 2016.