Standing Water by Terri Armstrong

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Standing Water by Terri Armstrong

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: Australian Dom has been living and working in London trying to make a name for himself. He returns to Australia when his mother dies to find devastation on a huge scale.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 310 Date: February 2012
Publisher: Pewter Rose Press
ISBN: 978-1908136008

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This book is Winner 2010 Yeovil Literary Prize and is Armstrong's debut novel. Beautifully presented and with a rather poetic title, I was keen to get reading.

Dom has made the long flight from London to Australia and he's shattered, physically and emotionally. He's been busy getting on with his shiny new life in cosmopolitan London and has barely spared a thought for the folks back home. He's not relishing meeting up again with his brother Neal. Neal took over the family farm and land when their father died. The two brothers are like chalk and cheese. They had nothing in common as young boys growing up and when Dom left for Europe, Neal was relieved. But there is still an unsolved issue between them and it's a biggy. Now that they're older and hopefully wiser, will they manage to talk about it and even resolve it. Time will tell.

Neal appears as a gruff, uncommunicative person, morose even. His farm duties seem to sap his energy. So much so that there's barely any left for his wife Hester and their two young sons. She makes the most of her daily life and tries to keep busy with household chores but it's still tough for her.

Armstrong leaves lots of clues for her readers as to why Neal is as he is. Not the life and soul of the party. He's like a volcano which is ready to erupt at any minute. Must he hell living with him. Hester is a great mum but she's lonely. There's not much company around and Neal is really no company at all. Work, eat then bed is his usual routine. But all that changes when Dom appears back on the scene.

Armstrong takes her time to describe the vast open spaces of Australia. Beautiful, lonely, brutal - and now close to ruin as drought and salinity takes their toll on livestock, livelihoods and even whole communities. When Dom left a number of years ago everything was thriving. Now he could weep. He's here for a couple of weeks to sort out his mother's house and belongings etc but he knows that it will be hard and that every day will seem like a week. He wonders how he'll cope.

Apart from the great outdoors of Australia, this book in essence is about familial regret. Dom is seen as the boy who got away, the boy who make good in London. It's tiring for him to keep up this infernal swagger of success. The truth, as we discover, is somewhat different. Dom is a quiet and rather serious young man. But as he's now in his thirties he's grappling with some inner demons. The 'what ifs' also feature. What if he'd stayed and ran the farm? What if he'd stayed and married a local girl?

Family relationships are explored in this book with all the tiny details picked over and thoroughly investigated. While I found the characters credible and interesting, I wasn't so keen on Armstrong's rather pedantic telling of her story. At times, I found her writing to be somewhat essay-ish and therefore amateur. So, all things considered, an average read for me.

If this book appeals then you might like to try The Red Book by Meaghan Delahunt or The Vintage and the Gleaning by Jeremy Chambers.

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Buy Standing Water by Terri Armstrong at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Standing Water by Terri Armstrong at


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