This is the story of a wealthy Tasmanian family whose good fortune is wrought from gold, wool and a lust for land. It is also an intricate tale detailing its lineage … some branches forming this family tree ooze with love and laughter, others harbour secrets and grudges, and all intermingle with either compassion and self-sacrifice or downright nastiness and bitter rivalry. This myriad of traits follows two branches of the family line down through the years, beginning with Victoria and Emma, the two wives of one man with big dreams.
For the first several chapters, J.H. Fletcher’s, Land of Golden Wattle, vacillates between the hardships of life found in the new colony first known as Van Diemen’s Land of 1826 and its more well-known place name of Tasmania in 1982. The story begins in the latter century but soon moves back in time to a rural district in England. Emma, a feisty young woman suddenly facing a bleak future when she is orphaned at seventeen, finds herself thrust into the care of her less than righteous reverend cousin and the austere presence of a nasty old biddy who shows no heart or compassion for the young girl.
Fate then steps in to lend a hand: or rather Emma herself takes matters into her own pretty ones and after a long sea journey finds herself landing in the new colony of Hobart Town, determined to make a successful new life and provide an inheritance for her ancestors.
The man she adores, although having Emma’s best interests at heart, turns out to be a huge dreamer and unfortunately a bit of a schemer. When her lying, heartless uncle sets in motion a scheme that will wreak havoc on the young family, their path and that of their children suddenly takes a strange and dangerous turn — and one that will have long-lasting consequences down through the generations.
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The descriptions of her newly adopted country and the unfolding of Emma’s destiny takes on the form of a glorious symphony with all the heartening crescendos and treacherous troughs the blending of finely-tuned instruments is able to create. I fell in love with this young woman and her sassy ways and was quite sad to leave her behind when the drama moved forward in time.
This novel is beautifully written with both compelling and thoroughly unlikeable characters; the perfect counterbalance between hero/heroine and villain/villainess. The transition between a host of characters down through an entire century and a half is very well-executed, making it relatively easy for readers to float freely from one to the other as the author directs. A family tree at the front of the book is a wonderful addition to assist in keeping up with who’s who if needed.
The intricate descriptions of life in this still new savage land far across the sea from her former English homeland paint a vivid picture. Readers are taken backwards in time, treading those cobbled streets of Hobart Town and experiencing what it was like for a young 17-year-old arriving in this strange land.without really knowing anything about it nor any of the residents.
Subsequent eras bring to life more compelling characters — some you love, others you hate with a passion. Betrayal abounds in several generations beginning with the worst of all, while vengeance, and a deep dark secret, underpins the second half of the story.
Not having chapter numbers but only dates displayed made for an interesting read, capturing the parallel stories of Emma and her six generations removed granddaughter unfolding for approximately the first third of its pages. Tamara is just as feisty and determined as her young English ancestor of yesteryear and brings a modern touch to all the generations flowing from Emma and Victoria’s loins.
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I thoroughly enjoyed everything about Land of Golden Wattle … the cast of characters, the descriptions and customs cleverly portrayed for each era, and the rich tapestry of bloodline veins pulsating across each page. J.H. Fletcher carried the suspense perfectly while changing from one era to the next and the further you went, the harder it was to put down.
I highly recommend this beautiful novel as it sweeps in and out of the centuries like silken threads forming a magnificent tapestry.
Land of Golden Wattle, by J H Fletcher, (published by HQ Fiction) is available from Dymocks. Click here for details.