Aussie Book Review: From Alice With Love by Jo Dutton

alice From Alice With Love by Jo Dutton

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Allen & Unwin, July 2013

Synopsis- After the end of a long-term relationship, Alicia’s life is at a crossroads when news that her mother is critically ill takes her back to her childhood home of Alice Springs.
Though she hasn’t consciously intended to remain in central Australia, when Alicia is offered a job setting up a school on an indigenous outstation she decides to stay. Surrounded by the mesmerising beauty of the desert, Alicia takes charge of the new school, and though the challenges are substantial, she finds the work deeply fulfilling.
When Alicia meets Patrick through her work she’s instantly attracted to him. Patrick shares much of Alicia’s outlook on life and their relationship flourishes until they hit a crisis regarding their future together…
From Alice With Love is both a beautiful love story and a thought-provoking novel set in the exotic red centre of Australia.

Review- From Alice With Love is an impressive novel that explores many of the social and political issues related to Aboriginal communities in Australia, set around the recent time of the government’s interventions into rural communities to investigate the prevalence child sexual assault up until the “Sorry” speech led by Kevin Rudd. These big issues are sometimes in the backdrop of the protagonist Alicia’s journey of returning home and sometimes at the forefront, affecting the day to day lives of the Aboriginal community in which she resides and works.

Following a divorce from her long-term partner, Alicia has taken the chance of starting fresh and hopes to find a partner who shares her desire to start a family one day. She returns to her home town in Alice Springs to spend time with her ill mother and during her stay accepts a teaching role that involves the setup of the first school in an Indigenous outstation. There are plenty of challenges to overcome in creating a learning environment for this group of children, but Alicia is supported by the community and her childhood friend Lekisha.

Alicia meets Patrick who shares her values and passion about supporting the Indigenous communities in Central Australia. However, just when their relationship starts to take off, Patrick’s custody difficulties begin to put a strain on their budding relationship and they must decide whether they have a future together.

Alicia, as a character was quite likeable as was Patrick. In terms of the growth of these characters and the conflict they face, it did feel a little weak at times. However, there is a real sense of growth and conflict faced by the community and in some ways the community in which Alicia lives and work is the real protagonist of this book. So, while in most stories I’d find the lack of direction or conflict for the protagonist frustrating, the broader story arc moved forward enough for me to feel wholly satisfied by the end. This was also why I didn’t feel the political issues overshadowed the story, because it was part of the conflict faced by the community, the country and the people- even if it didn’t directly affect Alicia.

From Alice With Love was an ambitious story that explores the challenges faced by Aboriginal communities and those who work in rural regions. I liked how the author tied it in to recent political events and showed the impact of these decisions on the lives of Aboriginals in Central Australia and the Northern Territory. An enjoyable read and a book that I learnt from.

Overall Rating

4.5/5

“Fantastic!”

From Alice with Love can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge:

awwbadge_2013

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