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Saturday, May 8, 2010

'The Family Farm' by Fiona PALMER

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

Isabelle Simpson longs to take over the family farm, but her ailing father won't give her a chance. The stand-off between them threatens to tear the family apart. Handsome neighbour Will Timmins holds the secret to building bridges between them, if Izzy can forgive him his past.
Izzy is forced to make a tough decision – sacrifice an exciting new romance or relinquish her lifelong dream? But then unexpected tragedy falls on the farm, and Izzy is thrown the greatest challenge of all.
As she gathers with family and friends by the shade of the gum-tree tavern, confessions are made, long-held secrets are revealed and hearts are set free.

‘The Family Farm’ is Fiona Palmer’s writing debut.

I really enjoyed this book. I felt like reading something thoroughly Aussie and ‘The Family Farm’ certainly hit the spot.

The story is set in the author’s hometown of Pingaring, Western Australia. When the novel begins, Izzy Simpson is coming home – and she has big plans. She wants to prove to her father that she is a capable farmer, and desperate to inherit the family farm.

But her father is skeptical, to say the least. He’s a traditionalist, and a firm believer that farm work is not for girls. And then there’s the biggest reason for his denying Izzy her inheritance; Izzy’s older sister, Claire, died four years ago in a farming accident. Her father is convinced it was his fault Claire died. But circumstances leading to Claire’s death are hazy – and Izzy is certain her sister’s then boyfriend, Will Timmins, is somehow responsible for Claire’s black mood in the weeks before the accident.

Upon her return Izzy is horrified to discover that her father has taken Will under his wing. Izzy’s hurt is two-fold; not only is she still wary of Will for hurting Claire years ago, but she feels that her father’s closeness to the man is because he sees in him the son he always wanted.

Palmer writes a tangled web for her characters – weaving family secrets with old grudges, in an intricate and compelling saga that readers will enjoy untangling.

I really loved the small-town atmosphere Palmer creates. There’s a certain soap-opera quality to rural towns: people live in each other’s pockets and it’s impossible to keep secrets. Through Izzy, readers are privy to small-town gossip and it’s impossible not to get sucked into the rumor mill… even more so when Izzy herself becomes another notch on the Pingaring grapevine.

Izzy is a wonderful narrator. She’s rough around the edges, but has a heart of gold. She’s both a rough and tumble tomboy, and a young woman coming into her femininity. I think there was a chance that Izzy could have been a caricature – a female farmer all ocker swagger and no substance. But Palmer has written a truly lovely heroine in Izzy, and a really compelling journey for her. All Izzy wants in life is to run the family farm – granted, with that wish comes the hope that her father will realize that she’s more than just a pretty face and respect her abilities. Izzy is driven and tough and even though I don’t know the first thing about farming, I was totally rooting for Izzy to get her wish and win the farm. There’s just something so admirable about her simple yearning to make her father proud and realize her homegrown dream… no matter how foreign to me, it was a compelling journey to read.

I loved the romance between Izzy and Will. It was a real ‘will they or won’t they?’ page-turner for me. There was so much stacked against them – not least of which was Izzy’s firm belief that Will was somehow responsible for her sister’s death;

As he looked up, he noticed Izzy had been studying him. Her eyes were fixed and wide as if reading his thoughts. The hairs on his neck prickled. He felt like she’d opened his personal diary, but he’d had enough practice in shutting down his emotional thoughts to know how to handle it.
Izzy glanced at his hand, which he still had gripped around her wrist. “I’ll hold a grudge for as long as it takes. Don’t think you can win me over with that smile of yours, Will Timmins, because it won’t work on me. Thanks for the ride.” She pulled away and headed towards the house with her head held high.
Will watched her go, a mixture of puzzlement and sadness on his face.

The romance was what really what hooked me. I loved the fact that readers were privy to Izzy’s changing perspective of Will. She starts out despising him, with a bank of prejudices all based on her perceptions of the past. And then gradually things change and their relationship shifts, and it makes for really fascinating reading. It also helped that Will is described as some sort of tanned Adonis in tight jeans with a dimpled smile. Mmmmm…

My one complaint about the book was the occasional switch in narrative. There’s no line/paragraph break when the POV changes, which is just a personal pet peeve of mine. But I also really liked Izzy’s narrative, so it felt quite jarring to get other character’s perspectives when I was so drawn to Izzy’s voice. I also think keeping the reader in Izzy’s narrative could have heightened the tension – particularly when it came to deciphering Will and her changing relationship with him. Some of the romantic tension deflated when readers were given a sneak-peek into Will’s psyche.

I really loved this book, especially because so much in it was foreign to me. I know nothing about farming in Australia - I’m a city girl, through and through. I found the in’s and out’s of farming life really interesting, and the rural setting made a great stage for this contemporary romance.

Maya Angelou
 once said; “You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right”.
I think that’s ultimately what ‘The Family Farm’ is about – coming home and finding that ‘home’ hasn’t changed so much, but you have. I loved Izzy’s story – on the surface her journey is all about staking a claim on the land she loves, but Palmer goes so much deeper than that. Palmer has written a contemporary romance that’s at once a glimpse into rural Australia, and an examination of family dynamics.

4/5

3 comments:

  1. Great interview and review!
    Don't enter me though, I'm not big on contemporary romance so better let someone win who's more into it.

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  2. ps: Oops, didn't even notice it were two posts.

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  3. Love the book so much, I think she has almost taken over from my favourite author Rachael treasure.

    Love your interview and review, esp the part about will...I felt the same. U really captured the book.

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