My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I love the delicious complexity of this story: in the opening scenes, Hart conveyed a crucial misunderstanding between returned soldier and war bride directly to the reader: something the characters themselves did not understand.
From there, she developed the characters, allowing my empathy for them both to grow, and rousing my sense of curiosity: when and how will they find out for themselves? How can they possibly incorporate that revelation into their lives? How could they then choose between hurting themselves and hurting others? What is the right thing to do, and for whom?
And while these lives are being lived and torn apart, just to top things off, it seems there were a thousand ways to discriminate: the shame of divorce for a woman but not a man (and worse, those ‘between the cracks’ cases where a woman is neither single nor married, widowed nor divorced: and if that doesn’t make sense, you’ll just have to read it to understand!), the threat of a woman losing her job because a man was always preferable.
But it wasn’t just women’s jobs balanced so precariously – Hart’s male characters have to face the scandal caused by a woman’s divorced status, just for being her boss; or have to accept a promotion with a lot of attached negatives or be fired.
Even child protection gets a look-in: a single man cannot possibly have the skills to look after a female child so let’s just take the child away now.
I was happy to see Hart still has her lovely way of dropping little gems of Aussie-isms (I was stoked to discover ‘Bush Week’ was a real thing!), and it was a sheer pleasure to encounter Tom McBride in a bit more depth. The pace slowed in the middle, but that only served to convey the frustration the characters were feeling, and the ending felt a bit ‘pat’ (but isn’t life often like that too?).
All in all this is a beautiful book and a pleasure to read. I can’t wait for the next one!