Synopsis: Armed with an honours degree in Agribusiness, Amanda Greenfield dreams of employing all the skills she’s learnt at college to help her father turn the family farm from a debt-ridden, run-down basket case into a thriving enterprise. Then tragedy strikes with the death of Amanda’s mother in a car accident. Wracked by grief and guilt, and wearied by the long struggle to keep Kyleena a going concern, Amanda’s father argues that they should sell up and get on with their lives away from the vagaries of drought and fluctuating stock and crop yields. Having inherited half the farm from her beloved mother, whom she also grieves for, Amanda determines to summon all her strength, grit and knowhow to save Kyleena. Along the way she faces mixed fortunes in both love and life…
Review: Amanda returns to the family farm after the death of her mother. The tension between her and her grieving father climax when he requests to sell the farm. But Amanda is strong and hardworking and wants to bring the farm back up to its potential so that they can live comfortably. When another tragedy strikes, Amanda is left to run the farm and make a profit on her own. Strange things start to happen; headlights in the driveway, missing stock and used coffee mugs in her kitchen and Amanda begins to question whether someone is out to her down.
The story spans over several years and for me, it seemed a bit disjointed at times, jumping into the past and moving years into the future. Amanda’s relationship with Aiden, her neighbour who is 20 years older than her seemed quite strange. It was supposedly a platonic relationship, even though he wanted to marry her but he just seemed more like a father figure to her. Amanda’s undying love for best friend Jonno was evident but he was largely absent from the story. So, I didn’t really feel vested in the success of either relationship in the story.
Unfortunately, I will be a bit picky about when Amanda was diagnosed with PTSD and placed on medication- which was a bit of a shock in the story. Working in mental health, I am cautious about ‘labelling’ people and medicating is only as a last resort. I didn’t really agree with the diagnosis as it was obvious that she was still grieving the losses in her family and just needed someone to talk to. But that’s a minor glitch in the novel.
Blue Skies is marked by a strong protagonist who persisted to make a success of her farm despite all the setbacks, and this is what made the story stand out as a rural suspense in Australia. I love the country feel and the setting is always well presented in Fleur’s stories.
Blue Skies is an enjoyable Aussie read, but I must say I didn’t enjoy it as much as her first novel, Red Dust (see my review)- but still worth adding to your Aussie fiction shelf! Fleur McDonald’s third novel Purple Roads is due for release in April 2012.
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This novel was read as part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2012 & the Aussie Author Challenge 2012