In the author’s notes, she writes that her novel, “Pays homage to the countless intelligent, insightful and courageous women throughout the centuries, who through no fault of their own, have been prevented from achieving their potential, and following their dreams.” It is certainly true that women had cause to despair in the past, and still today, are not recognised as equal in many areas. This is a story of a family in 1926; there are young parents full of dreams and laughter, and two girls who are part of that happy normality. The story is divided into three parts.
Disaster strikes the family, and the mother struggles to cope. These were the days when children were seen and not heard, and many of the decisions that were made in their family were quite puzzling. This is also a snapshot of those times where society had no support for those with issues, either financial or medical. It was a hard time, and fulfilment in education, or following a dream, was only for the wealthy.
The story is narrated by Ida. She has a sister Nora, who is both beautiful and talented, and many times the two are compared. The family has had to move in with grandmother, who is quiet and set in her ways, but sensitive to the needs of the girls. They settle into a new routine and develop into maturity. Ida meets Len at a dance, and feels that her role now is to marry and have children. Nora, on the other hand, has discovered that she has not just a talent for singing, but an extraordinary voice. Thanks to grandmother, this has been recognised, with Nora winning a scholarship to study at the Melbourne Academy of Music.
This is where the plans and dreams come unstuck for both women. In today’s society, neither Ida nor Nora would have had their pathways truncated by the issues that faced them. However, Ida, always supportive and caring, helps Nora and satisfies a need within herself. Both the husbands of Nora and Ida are loving and patient, and recognise the sisters need each other. In the end, it seems as though the next generation will have the opportunities that were denied Nora and Ida, but this also will not happen without suffering.
Set in Tasmania, the descriptions of the mountains are quite lovely, and the land in its natural beauty is pristine. Only Nora during her move to Melbourne leaves the island, while Ida and her family have a house near to where they were raised. So many customs are touched on, and the primitive surroundings for those who worked on the land, showed how hard life could be. Progress in every way, on the land, in the characters, in society, and in the views of the next generation, is shown. For these women indeed, many of their dreams were never to be fulfilled, and their greatest hope was for future generations.
|Allen and Unwin
|Allen and Unwin