LOVE. BETRAYAL. NEW BEGINNINGS. A young English war bride makes a new life in Australia in this romantic story set on the stunning coast of Sydney, by the author of THE SOLDIER'S WIFE.
January, 1920. Young Englishwoman Margaret Dalton is full of excitement as she arrives to begin a new life in the warm, golden land of Australia. She leaves behind the horrors of WWI and can't wait to see her husband, Frank, after two years' separation. But when Margaret's ship docks, Frank isn't there to greet her and Margaret is informed that he already has a wife . . .
Devastated, Margaret must swap her hopes and dreams for the reality of living and working in a strange new city. And just as a growing friendship with army sergeant Tom McBride gives her a steady person to rely on, news arrives that Frank may not have abandoned her. Where should Margaret's loyalties lie: with the old life or with the new?
This was a very interesting read and for unexpected reasons. This is not purely a romance novel, there is in fact so much about life in Australia after the First World War that is rich in cultural and societal life. The main character of Margaret is most admirable in how she deals with her supposed abandonment. She is a strong and likeable character, caught between the old and new world and what her role in should be.
"He liked the way she was working to learn more, to be more."
Hart provides an abundance of detail and insight into how the world was at the end of World War One. She has provided characters and factual scenarios which makes reading about them most absorbing. There is a myriad of issues presented that, seen through our present day eyes is unthinkable, but were very much front and centre in the 1920s. She does an excellent job at portraying how times were indeed changing.
"It was a new way of thinking."
"Voting, surfing - was nothing forbidden to Australian women?"
(I particularly enjoyed the bathing suit dilemmas!)
Your current day understandings will be challenged - this is a great history lesson on life after the war and how the old ways were slowly changing but some things such as marriage and divorce were not. The difficulty in gaining a divorce and the impact upon the female were made that more real when a face is put to the story. The religious aspect is handled really well - I had forgotten the stories my mother used to tell me about Catholics versus Protestants:
"He's Catholic. You can't marry a Catholic."
Other social issues briefly touched upon include sex before marriage, child welfare, PTSD and homosexuality. Hart touched on them all. Very brave and well done in my opinion. For a narrative to worthily cover these issues and keep pace with the story is commendable.
I loved reading about Sydney through the eyes of an immigrant, especially all Margaret's ferry rides, the learning to swim and the entertainment of the day. Be prepared for a range of Australian colloquialisms:
"Two shakes of a lamb's tail"
If I had a complaint it would be twofold. It was at times a bit repetitive especially Margaret restating how she thought Frank had abandoned her and didn't want her. I could not help but find it a little insensible to have not dug a little further, rather than fatalistically accepting her situation. At times it bordered on tiresome how she felt:
"abandoned and having to manage her own life in this new country."
Secondly, an awful lot seemed to come together at the end - I mean like the last 10% of the book! There was a great twist towards the end that I did not see coming; but being so close to the end left much to be resolved in a short space of time. Overall, however, this was a very good read and I would recommend it to those who appreciate depth of narrative in historical women's writing.
"It was as though she had two pairs of eyes, one she'd inherited from her parents and their parents before them and the other new-found, not during the war, but on the instant peace was declared ... she suspected that neither pair of eyes saw clearly."
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.