In 1920s Glasgow, Beattie Blaxland falls pregnant to her married lover Henry just before her nineteenth birthday. Abandoned by her family, Beattie and Henry set sail for a new life in Australia. But life is not about to follow the plan that Beattie had hoped for and fate will play her a cruel hand…
In 2009 London, prima ballerina Emma Blaxland-Hunter is also discovering that life can have its ups and downs. Unable to dance again after a fall, Emma returns home to Australia to recuperate. But on arrival she is presented with some surprising news – her recently deceased and much-loved grandmother Beattie Blaxland has left her Tasmanian property to Emma. Told through the eyes of a young Beattie Blaxland and a contemporary Emma Blaxland-Hunter, this is an emotionally charged, seductive tale of self-discovery, secrets and surprises.
Romantic Historical Fiction
Australia – Present Day/World War II
Heat Level: 1
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Jenny Q
This is a moving story of a woman’s triumph over adversity, and the lessons she passes along to her granddaughter. Beattie Blaxland is an amazing character. When the story begins she’s nineteen with dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Instead she ends up pregnant and homeless–but not defeated. She’s smart, compassionate, hardworking, self-sacrificing, and she stands up for what she believes in. She’s not perfect, but she’s tough as nails and knows an opportunity when she sees one. She does whatever it takes to provide for her daughter, tackling poverty and bigotry, and the conventions that have long held women back in small-town Australia during the depression and World War II.
In the present day, Beattie’s granddaughter Emma comes home to Australia after an exalted, whirlwind career as a prima ballerina ends abruptly due to an injury. Emma and Beattie are two very different women. Beattie’s early life was one of struggle and uncertainty; Emma’s was one of privilege and status. But Emma has to learn how to live without dancing and without a purpose, how to make friends, how to take care of herself. She’s very surprised to discover that her grandmother left her an old farm estate, Wildflower Hill in Tasmania, and she goes there intending to prepare it for sale. But the house is full of boxes of Beattie’s personal belongings–letters, photos, mementos–and as Emma goes through them she begins to discover who her grandmother really was and how much Wildflower Hill meant to her. Along the way she learns a lot about her own capabilities and what’s truly important in life.
I was utterly absorbed in this story from start to finish. The writing is lovely, the characterization is rich, the pacing is perfect, the narrative switches between Beattie in the past and Emma in the present in all the right places; I laughed, I cried, I got angry–and I never wanted it to end. But end it did, and it was one of the most satisfying, fitting, and perfect endings I’ve seen in a long time. Loved it!