Aussie Book Review: Jillaroo by Rachael Treasure

jillaroo Jillaroo by Rachael Treasure

Paperback

TBR pile

Penguin, 2002

 Synopsis- After a terrible argument with her father over their family property, ‘Waters Meeting’, Rebecca Saunders throws her swag in the ute and heads north with her three dogs. A job as a jillaroo takes her into the rowdy world of B&S balls, Bundy rum and boys. When she at last settles down to a bit of study at agricultural college, her life is turned upside down by the very handsome but very drunken party animal Charlie Lewis . . .

Will she choose a life of wheat farming on vast open plains with Charlie? Or will she return to the mountains, to fight for the land and the river that runs through her soul?

It’s only when tragedy shatters her world that Rebecca finds a strength and courage she never knew she had, in this action packed novel of adventure, dreams and determination.

Review- Jillaroo by Rachael Treasure is one of the books on my TBR shelf I really wanted to read this year and I’m so glad I made the time to pick this one up. It’s quite a moving story about a country girl who is passionate about farming and determined to see her family farm succeed.

The opening scene sparks immediate empathy for the protagonist Rebecca, with a big blow up with her cranky old man she leaves behind her family farm in a fit of rage with her Ute, swag and three beloved dogs. With her parents separated, Rebecca has been working hard her whole life to prove to her father that the farm is where she belongs. But it’s her older brothers Mike and Tom whom her father wants to bequeath his livelihood to and he refuses to believe that Rebecca has a place on the farm- he wants her to do teaching or nursing. Desperate to follow her dream, Rebecca heads north and takes up a job as a jillaroo where she meets the party animal Charlie Lewis.

Charlie likes to let loose at B&S balls and have a good time with his mates. Rebecca soon discovers it’s his escape from his stifling family situation- an overbearing mother and a critical father. Rebecca and Charlie click instantly and there’s an obvious attraction, though they don’t really become involved until after several platonic encounters due to living in different areas. Charlie was a really interesting character and I felt he complimented Rebecca well. He was always supportive and emotionally available to her and really wanted them to have a future together.

Estranged from her father, missing her sensitive brother Tom and surprised by her brother Mike’s engagement, Rebecca feels her dream of running the farm slipping through her fingers. Eager to remain in the industry, Rebecca studies at University and isn’t willing to settle for life on Charlie’s small farm being away from the land and her animals. Rebecca is very strong-willed and driven and I could sense her restlessness when she moved in with Charlie. Although he knew their relationship was deteriorating he felt it was out of his control to stand up to his parents and make his own decisions. I found this quite frustrating and could understand why Rebecca needed space at this time.

Jillaroo spans several years of Rebecca’s life and the story is told from her viewpoint and that of Charlie, her father’s, her mother’s and Tom’s perspective.  I felt drawn into the struggles of this family and liked the added dimensions this added to the layers of the story. When a tragedy strikes the family I became a little tearful because of the emotional impact on Rebecca was portrayed very well by the author. Throughout the story, Rebecca’s personality and emotions really jumped off the page and I think this is what made the story so satisfying. I became so invested in Rebecca following her dream and finding happiness with Charlie.

The story covers the very serious issues of suicide and the lingering effects on the family and I think the author dealt with this in a sensitive and believable way in how the characters responded.

It’s quite a long book so it’s hard to really give a succinct summary of the plot, especially since it spans so many years. But I liked watching the characters grow and mature and overcome their struggles. There was a tendency to info dump early in the story as the family background was revealed but this tapered off as the story went on.

The only criticism I have is about the ending and how the relationship problems with Charlie and Rebecca are resolved. A LOT of time passed when they were apart and even though their feelings for each other remained strong I couldn’t believe that they would just pick up where they left off so easily- especially with both hurting so much. Nevertheless, I was happy that the conflict was resolved.

Jillaroo falls under the rural lit genre but encompasses family drama, romance, loss, determination and passion. I’m looking forward to reading another Treasure novel, I have another one on my TBR shelf to get to soon. Plus, I recently found out that there’s a sequel coming out in April titled The Farmer’s Wife– can’t wait for this one!

Overall Rating

4/5

“I loved this book!”

Jillaroo can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge:

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9 comments

  1. Treasure basically kicked off the Rural Lit craze all by herself.

    By far my favourite of her books is The Stockmen. It’s also the one that’s the most ‘romancey.’

    I enjoy her books a lot – though sometimes she hates on the cities too much (there’s one book where she went out of her way to insult the ACT – where I’m from – because it wasn’t ‘on the land’. We have more bushland and kangaroos here than anywhere!).

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  2. I read the preview of The Farmer’s Wife in Fifty Bales of Hay and it piqued my interest in reading Jillaroo, I hope to get to it soon – its been on my shelf for a while!

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  3. This book was an encredible insperation to me and im going up north for a while when im 18 and its because of this book…..I LOVED IT SO MUCH!!!!

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