Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar
The first chapter of Salt Creek opens in Chichester, England, in 1874. Hester Finch is a respected and reasonably wealthy member of her community. But she can't stop her thoughts wandering back to her adolescence, spent on Salt Creek Station in the remote South Australian Coorong region. Hester feels has never felt so alive as then, when we had so little.
|Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Evocative and beautifully written debut novel, set in 19th century Australia. Rich with landscape and stifling heat, it is absorbing and thought-provoking.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: September 2017|
|Publisher: Aardvark Bureau|
|External links: Author's website|
And the second chapter takes us back to 1855, when the Finch family moved to Salt Creek, running from the debt Hester's father has mounted up in Adelaide. Hester's father is a good Quaker but a poor business man. The Finches make a large family - mother, father and six living children with two not long dead. Hester's mother is lost in grief and so, in effect, Hester is taking on a parental role.
The Coorong is harsh, marginal farming land. The house is cobbled together. Father's attempts to educate - read Europeanise - a Ngarrindjeri boy called Tully meet with varying degrees of success. Life is hard and the family is not always welcome. But there is much beauty and discovery to be had in this harsh land for Hester and the younger members of the family, while the older brothers and the father set themselves as aloof and superior settlers.
Eventually, the inevitable tensions between the colonists and the Ngarrindjeri have to be faced. And each member of the Finch family will need to take a side.
Oh, but this is a beautiful novel. It's wonderfully unhurried and every page, every paragraph, every word, is rich with landscape. Characters are developed slowly and carefully and with great intimacy. I was lost in this story and sighed with loss when I turned the last page. There's a great deal in it but Hester's strong, yet melancholy, voice was the strongest for me. As her time at Salt Creek goes on and Hester comes to see and understand more about her father and the negative aspects of her family's presence on indigenous land, she is torn between loyalty to kin, a desperation to be somewhere else, and love of the land.
I don't know enough about it to tell you that Treloar has interrogated the tensions between European and indigenous Australians successfully or shown the Ngarrindjeri characters accurately, but what came up from the pages for me was a real respect for the people and land she has written about, so I hope that's true.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar at Amazon.com.
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