Aussie Book Review: The Sunburnt Country by Fiona Palmer

sunburnt The Sunburnt Country by Fiona Palmer

ebook

Review copy provided by publisher/ netgalley

Penguin, February 2013

 Synopsis- Jonelle Baxter is a young woman in a man’s world – a tough, hardworking motor mechanic from an idyllic country family. But lately things in her perfect life have been changing, and her workshop isn’t the only local business that’s struggling.

Daniel Tyler is new in town, posted from the city to manage the community bank. As he tries to rein in the spiralling debts of Bundara, he uncovers all sorts of personal dramas and challenges. The last thing Jonny and Dan need is an unwanted attraction to each other.

It’s going to take more than a good drop of rain to break the drought and to keep this small but very colourful community thriving.

From the bestselling author of The Road Home comes a moving and heartwarming story about love, change and courage – and the beauty that’s found in the bush, even in the harshest of times.

Review- In the Sunburnt Country, Fiona Palmer brings us a story about community, identity and love set in the struggling rural town of Bundara. Jonelle “Jonny” Baxter is a mechanic, her best mate is a bloke and she spends her free time racing cars. Palmer contrasts this tough, masculine side to Jonny by softening her through the vulnerability of her emotions and an undercurrent of femininity. Because when she’s not in her grease-stained overalls she’s in her denim shorts and a singlet that accentuates her womanly figure and Dan, the love interest, isn’t able to keep his eyes off her. There’s also her very strong community and family values. Jonny’s biggest weakness is that she loves and cares for her town and any hint of despair or impending loss has a devastating impact on her, emotionally.

What I really love about this story is how Palmer spins the conventional rural romance- where typically a city chic moves to the country- by introducing a refined city bloke that blows in and is attracted to a country girl. Palmer really highlights the country/ city nuances and Jonny’s observations about a city-slicker from the cologne to the polished shoes to the sparkling clean car. I could really relate to Dan who is surprised by the sense of community and ‘everybody knowing everybody’s business’ after coming from a place where he didn’t even know the name of the barista where he got a coffee every day for six months.

The Sunburnt Country also deals with very serious issues facing a small rural town including grief and loss, depression and suicide, drought, financial instability and how the townsfolk all stick together to get through any adversity they may face. Though there’s the absence of mystery or suspense that often underpins a rural romance story, The Sunburnt Country creates conflict within the everyday troubles and joys of living in a small town. All the characters come to life, I felt like I could picture the whole town and what everyone was up to at any time. Palmer paints a vivid picture of rural life and the people who live it.

The conflict in the story is also quite strong for both Jonny and Dan and it’s resolved slowly and believably. The only part that didn’t feel very strong was Jonny’s quick judgement of Dan as a city slicker banker which didn’t really fit with her character but it soon became obvious that it was her attraction to him that she was really fighting and the fear that if they were to get too close than she would lose him when he returned to the city. Dan’s also quite conflicted, his future plans of a life in banking and following in his father’s footsteps becomes less clear the more he becomes immersed in the town and in Jonny’s life. I really admired the courage Dan had to stand up to his father and brave a future different to the one he planned or was expected of him. I’m also glad that Palmer wasn’t tempted to involve a love triangle with Jonny’s best mate Ryan, it was nice to see that a guy and gal could be good friends without romantic feelings coming into play.

Without giving away too much of the plot, The Sunburnt Country is a story about love and loss, courage and reflection which grows out of a town with deep roots, characters who are well fleshed out and conflict that had this reader fighting back tears at emotionally moving scenes. A heart-warming ending left me wanting to pick up another Palmer novel very soon! Heart of Gold is sitting on my TBR shelf as a high priority so once I’ve gotten through my review copies it will be one of the first ones I pick up!

Overall Rating

4.5/5

“Fantastic!”

The Sunburnt Country can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge:

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