My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The cover of this book is what made me look twice – I can’t go past a good bird reference. Then the title made me look a third time. I mean, it just couldn’t be a book about a book club, so what was it really about?
In that respect it didn’t disappoint. I liked the layering – of characters, of plot, of landscape. The versions of themselves these women presented to their community, isolated as they were in the Australian outback, concealed hopes, fears, dreams – even domestic violence. The book club was an excuse for them to get together.
In a time and place (1970’s outback NT) before internet, before mobile phones, when landline phones were party lines (in an eavesdropping sense, not in a fun sense), when women died ‘normally’ in childbirth, this is a warm and exceptional story. Exceptional because women leaving a legally enforced abusive marriage were rare, and inter-racial relationships even more so.
I like the way Green transitions past whole chunks of time that would only have made the book dull and repetitive, and I love the way she incorporates the landscape as it changes from life-threateningly dry to dangerously wet. Hardest to cope with is her depiction of marriage-breakdown. Its realism makes for difficult reading – I just wanted to tell the woman in question to run away, now, no matter what new hardships that will bring. Easier said than done.
We are fortunate to have a much broader network to turn to these days, but these women did strong, brave things long before word got out that women could.
It’s a pity Green’s characters didn’t have her book to help them in their day.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.