Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: Lyrebird Hill by Anna Romer

Title:  Lyrebird Hill

Author: Anna Romer
Publisher:  September 1st 2014 by Simon & Schuster AU
ISBN: 9781922052421
Pages:  416 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: historical fiction, mystery, contemporary
Our Rating: 4 1/2 cups


From the bestselling author of Thornwood House

When all that you know comes crashing down, do you run? Or face the truth?

Ruby Cardel has the semblance of a normal life – a loving boyfriend, a fulfilling career – but in one terrible moment, her life unravels. The discovery that the death of her sister, Jamie, was not an accident makes her question all she’s known about herself and her past.

Travelling back home to Lyrebird Hill, Ruby begins to remember the year that has been forever blocked in her memory . . . Snatches of her childhood with beautiful Jamie, and Ruby’s only friendship with the boy from the next property, a troubled foster kid.

Then Ruby uncovers a cache of ancient letters from a long-lost relative, Brenna Magavin, written from her cell in a Tasmanian gaol where she is imprisoned for murder. As she reads, Ruby discovers that her family line is littered with tragedy and violence.

Slowly, the gaps in Ruby’s memory come to her. And as she pieces together the shards of truth, what she finally discovers will shock her to the core – about what happened to Jamie that fateful day, and how she died.

A thrilling tale about family secrets and trusting yourself.

Our thoughts:

This novel was such a treat! After reading and being engrossed in Anna Romer’s first book, ‘Thornwood House’, we were eager to see what this second tale would bring. We were not disappointed! We can clearly state that any time in the future we would not hesitate to buy anything this author produces. ‘Lyrebird Hill’ follows on from Anna Romer's successful debut novel and without doubt, it keeps you on the edge of your seat page after page. It is so very engaging yet, as the end draws near, you become hesitant to finish it, finding it difficult to extract yourself from the mystique Romer has wrapped around your literary soul. For you see this is a tale full of wonderful surprises, unexpected twists and turns that had us emailing each other frantically thinking about events that transpired long after the chapter had closed.

“Features began to emerge on the paper, the charcoal lines almost too faint to see at first, like marks made by the random fluttering of dusty moth wings".

Lyrebird Hill is a compelling story, evocative of the rural Australian landscape; it’s easy to hear the song of the now departed lyrebirds, smell the eucalypt trees in the morning dew or hear the gurgle of the water down a rocky crevice. All your literary senses will be engaged with this rich and sumptuous prose:

“It was a lyrical painting, magical - a summer song rendered in pigment and light".

A stunningly beautiful tale with tragic secrets – past and present - Aussie author Anna Romer paints the Australia bush in such vivid imagery that it forces you to pause and ponder. The blending of the two stories, related by Brenna in 1898 and Ruby in 2013, was done seamlessly. We found ourselves madly flipping pages as the mystery and intrigue is so very gripping and intense, yet conversely, events transpired that were sad and at times sorrowful:

“The fabric of my life began to fray, develop holes. Through those holes I caught glimpses of a past I had not, until now, considered”.

The concept of secrecy is not confined simply to the occurrences within the story, as the author insightfully explores the way in which we all, to some extent or another, and for reasons ranging from sympathetic to nefarious, hide our true selves from the world at large.  Romer brilliantly uses the notion of masks, both literal and figurative, to illustrate that not all are as they seem, and a pleasant façade can hide a distasteful interior and vice versa.

The mask you wear might be grotesque, or quirky, or plain; or it might be one of extraordinary beauty – but it’s still only a mask. If you peel it away and look in the mirror, who do you see gazing back?”

Romer slowly lays out all the puzzle pieces and begins to assemble them, piece by piece, with the final placement ever so magical. A story steeped in sensational revelations, we waited with bated breath for the concluding downpour of truth:

“In its place, was a faint feeling of completeness, as if a tiny, overlooked puzzle piece had slotted perfectly into the larger picture of who I really was.”

The slight tarnish of a half star removal is because we felt there were characters that may have possible links, events that needed fuller disclosure, connections that were not complete in our own minds – but maybe, that was what the author intended after all – a story to keep you thinking long after the final page is turned:

“A jumble of disjointed events, a jigsaw puzzle with most of the its pieces still rattling around in the box…I had hoped to find answers here at Lyrebird Hill, and I had – but they still weren’t slotting as neatly into place as I had hoped”.

What Romer produces here is inspiring and the supplemental material provided by her at the end of the book sheds great light on the process she goes through in bringing these tales to life.  Australia should be excited! Lyrebird Hill cements Romer’s reputation at the forefront of Australian fiction. Here is hoping those scrapbooks of stories untold get dusted off by this exceptionally talented writer. We loved this book and highly recommend it to all who love a well-told and cleverly crafted mystery.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster, and NetGalley for the advanced copy to review.

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