Review copy provided by publisher
Allen & Unwin, March 2013
Synopsis- When marketing executive Tessa Mathison leaves London to attend her great-aunt’s funeral in Australia, her life is in turmoil.
An indiscretion during a boozy night out has resulted in Tessa’s name being mud in London’s cliquey marketing scene, and soon after she arrives in her homeland she discovers she’s been sacked.
Tessa’s childhood home, Danjar Plains, is an isolated station which holds some bad memories for her. She plans to escape it as soon as the funeral is over, but then an unusual request in her Aunt Violet’s will makes it impossible for her to leave.
When charismatic and charming Brendan McKenzie introduces himself to Tessa, staying at Danjar Plains no longer seems such a hardship. As various secrets begin to unravel, Tessa realises letting go of her heart may hold the key to unlocking both her past and her future.
From the author of the bestselling outback sagas, Red Dust, Blue Skies and Purple Roads, this moving novel is about making peace with the past, overcoming fear and insecurity, and the healing power of love.
Review- It’s one bad thing after another for London marketing exec Tess Mathison. She discovers photos of her in a compromising manner plastered all over Facebook, she’s been in bed with the enemy and she receives the news of the death of her beloved Aunt Spider. With her job on the line and her life running rampant, Tess gets on a plane and heads back to her hometown, Danjar Plains amid the dusty miles of the Nullarbor in Australia. She makes quite an impression when the fun, happy Tess her family once knew returns with thick makeup, a harsh haircut and a chip on her shoulder. There’s also that drinking problem and the promiscuity but Tess tries to hide this from her family.
Almost immediately she throws herself into sorting out the remains of her Aunts home in search for the family secrets that was hinted in the final letter Tessa received from Spider. Gradually she sobers up, gets back into her country gear and essentially gets back in touch with her roots. Plus she’s on a mission to get to the bottom of this big family secret. She scours diaries, letters and photo albums and becomes fixated on finding the truth. It keeps her mind occupied, though Tess is still dealing with the fallout of the many mistakes she’d made over the years since she fled Australia. She attracts the attention of ‘bad boy’ Brendan McKenzie and for a little while seems to forget all the progress she’s made, but it’s distant neighbour Harrison and young daughter Cally who capture her heart and provide a safe base for her.
The setting is by far my favourite element of Silver Clouds, Fleur captures the outback community and lifestyle perfectly and I loved that she set the story in the Nullarbor. On a road trip a year ago, I set off across the Nullarbor in a campervan with my partner and our dog and it was such an amazing experience. I enjoyed learning about the history at the small random museums set up across the desert pit stops and so I was excited when I recognised the town Balladonia that is mentioned a couple of times in the story. I remember going into the service station there on the way to WA and also on our return trip and I found the museum to be such an interesting experience- particularly about the history of the camel trains and the importation of camels into Australia. I had no idea! So, this element of Silver Clouds really resonates with me as I enjoy reading about the history of our country.
The protagonist Tessa was difficult to like in the beginning. She was rather self-indulgent, impulsive and at times self-destructive. She’d never really recovered from the death of her friend 7 years prior, though I couldn’t really connect with her grief about this as it wasn’t fully explored. Because I couldn’t really connect with Tessa this story was a struggle for me at times. Particularly when she got involved with Brendan, even though she kept telling herself she shouldn’t be jumping into just anybody’s arms. I did like her determination to reconnect with her Aunt Spider and how she persevered with finding the truth about her family’s history. Though I really liked Harrison as a character, I just didn’t feel that he and Tessa had any chemistry. I’d really like for that element to have been explored further as it seemed quite rushed and their interactions a little forced.
The lack of connection with Tessa and the romance aspect of Silver Clouds was a bit of a letdown for me, but I think McDonald does a wonderful job at capturing the rural lifestyle and everyday struggles faced by these communities. She brought a whole new element into it by exploring the history of Australia in that region which I found really fascinating. Silver Clouds is the fourth novel by Australian author Fleur McDonald (and the 4th of her books I’ve read) and makes a nice addition to the rural lit genre that is gradually taking over my bookshelves.
*Check back in tomorrow for my Q&A with Fleur McDonald*
“I really liked this”
This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge: