I adore historical fiction so when I was offered the chance to read Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar I jumped at the chance. I can’t thank Jimena Gorraez-Connolly at Aardvark Bureau/Gallic Books enough for my copy of Salt Creek in return for an honest review.
A story of love, duty, hardship and intolerance told by a strong woman in 1850s colonial Australia.
A part of me will always live at Salt Creek though it is on the far side of the world…
Hester Finch’s comfortable life in Chichester, England, could not be further from the hardship her family endured on leaving Adelaide for Salt Creek in 1855. Yet she finds her thoughts drawn to that beautiful, inhospitable outcrop of South Australia and the connections she and her siblings forged there: encounters with passing travellers and the local indigenous people – in particular a boy, Tully, whom Hester’s father seeks to educate almost as his own son – would change the fates of the Finches, and of the area’s first people, for ever.
My Review of Salt Creek
Making a new life in the wilds of Australia will have repercussions for Hester that echo down the years.
What a wonderful, wonderful book. I adored this read. I thought the authorial tone of Hester’s voice was perfect for the era so that it was less that I was reading about her and more that I was residing in her head and experiencing everything in tune with her. The style of the book so well underpinned the era of its setting. I felt completely transported to a world, when the white man held sway over women and non-whites, so that at times I could hardly contain my horror and rage at Hester’s father’s actions and blind, delusional plans. I wanted to wrench Hester away and save her and Addie with every fibre of my being. I don’t often make comparisons between books and authors, but Lucy Treloar made me think of the very best of Tracy Chevalier’s writing. Salt Creek is authentic in every way.
Each character was fantastically well defined. I think it’s no coincidence that they are called the Finch family in a time when Darwin was exploring the evolution of finches and Fred was echoing this interest in nature. Mama’s spiral into depression, Addie’s flirtations, Tully’s division between native and non native lifestyles, Stanton’s barely suppressed rage and aggression and so on all serve to weave a brilliant tapestry of family life. I went through a whole range of emotions reading about the Finch family, from dismay to horror and fear to joy. Of all the characters it was, of course, Hester whom I loved the most.
Lucy Treloar examined family life in its desperate minutiae alongside big emotions of love and hate so that I was held enthralled throughout. She balanced every word, every syllable, to add depth and quality to the book. I almost wish I hadn’t read Salt Creek yet as I would love the delight of discovering its qualities for the first time. In fact, I didn’t so much read Salt Creek as experience everything Hester experienced in her life. The filmic and poetic quality of some of the description placed me in Australia with her.
I want to shout from the rooftops about Salt Creek. It was, for me, a perfect book that I can’t stop thinking about.
About Lucy Treloar
Lucy Treloar was born in Malaysia and educated in Melbourne, England and Sweden. A graduate of the University of Melbourne and RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing program, Lucy is a writer, editor, mentor and creative writing teacher and has plied her trades both in Australia and in Cambodia, where she lived for several years.
She was awarded an Asialink Writer’s Residency to Cambodia (2011) to undertake research and to work on her first adult novel, then titled Some Times in Life. Lucy is the winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Pacific), the 2012 Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award and a 2013 Varuna Publisher Fellowship. Her short fiction has appeared in Sleepers, Overland, Seizure, and Best Australian Stories 2013, and her non-fiction in a range of publications.
Lucy’s debut novel, Salt Creek was published to critical acclaim. It has won the Dobbie Award, the Matt Richell Award for New Writer, and the Indie Award for Best Debut, and has been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the Readings Prize for New Australian Writer.
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