Aussie Book Review: Blackwattle Lake by Pamela Cook

Blackwattle Lake Blackwattle Lake by Pamela Cook

Paperback (uncorrected proof copy)

Review copy provided by publisher

Hachette, 1st December 2012

 Synopsis-  A story of courage and forgiveness for those who long to uncover who they used to be, and who they might still become.

For smart talking, newly claimed city girl Eve Nicholls, walking up the driveway of her childhood home a property she recently inherited from her mother is an eerie feeling. The horses that she loved still freckle the paddocks but the house is empty, and she’s glad to have her best friend Banjo the Kelpie with her . . . and a bottle of bourbon. Her plan is simple: sell the farm, grab the cash and get the hell out.

Despite her desire to keep a low profile, within days of her return Eve runs into all the people she hoped to avoid; the uncle who can’t forgive, the ex who moved on, and the best friend who he moved on with. At the house she is surrounded by memories and worse. She finds an envelope addressed to her in her mother’s handwriting, and sees a shadowy figure in the doorway. Is it her own guilt causing these delusions or has her past finally come back to haunt her?

But with horses to feed, an injured mare to care for, and a lifetime of clutter to sort out, there’s plenty to take her mind off it all. Slowly, she begins to discover the girl she used to be: Angie Flanagan, adventurous, animal-loving, vulnerable. When tragedy strikes, Eve realises that changing her name all those years ago in an attempt to hide from her past has not changed the truth of who she really is.

 Review- Blackwattle Lake is the debut novel by Australian author, Pamela Cook. This story was not the happy rural romance novel I was expecting, rather it was far grittier than I expected and would fit more comfortably in the rural fiction genre.

The protagonist, Eve Nicholls returns to her hometown, the place she was known as the wild child and formerly known as Angie Flanagan. Haunted by the fatal night that took her sister’s life, Eve isn’t keen to stick around town for long. After more than a decade estrangement, Eve returns to her mother’s home following her death. She’s accompanied by her best friend Banjo, her faithful dog and best friend. He becomes just as real a character in the story as Eve.

The mood is instantly set with Eve’s voice, it’s clear she’s not happy with her life and probably depressed. She carries a heavy weight- guilt- that has prevented her from moving forward with her life. She drinks a lot and doesn’t care much for her appearance and she’s self-depracating and lonely.

Cook’s narrative descriptions of the land are subtly interwoven into the story and even though it didn’t feel like much was happening in terms of the plot, I was certainly drawn into Eve’s world. She intends to get the house on the market, take the money and move up north, but as she settles into the home characterised by both positive and negative memories of her childhood, she is drawn back into the rural lifestyle. In the second half of the book, or in fact probably the final third is when the suspense begins to ramp up and Eve is forced out of her melancholy and is to face big decisions in her life. Her dog is bitten by a snake and she also stands by the town when a nasty bushfire looms on them.

The appearance of Eve’s ex-boyfriend from her teenage years takes her by surprise and to be honest I wasn’t quite sure where the author intended to take this storyline given he was married to her childhood best friend and they had a young daughter together. There were also a few interactions with the local vet which hinted at possibilities of relationship development, however this wasn’t really explored in the story. Although I really wanted a romantic plot to ensue, I soon realised this wasn’t the purpose of the story, rather it was to explore Eve’s identity and and the way in which she learns to make amends with her mistakes. I quite liked the emotional journey Eve went on, albeit it felt a little rushed at the end when a whole heap of stuff happened at once. But I did like seeing her kick into action and take charge of her life.

I really enjoyed Blackwattle Lake and was immediately drawn into the protagonist’s world. I think Cook has made her mark on the rural fiction genre and I’m really looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Overall Rating

4/5

“I loved this book!”

Blackwattle Lake can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

About the author:  Pamela Cook divides her time between writing and teaching creative writing at the St George and Sutherland Shire Community College. In teaching writing to adults she has realised the truth in the old adage that teaching is the best way of learning. BLACKWATTLE LAKE is her first book. For more information about Pamela visit her website (www.justwrite.net.au), blog (www.pamelacook.wordpress.com), or follow her on Twitter (@justwritetoday).

This book was read as part of the AWW2012 challenge:

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