Thursday, April 23, 2015

To love a sunburnt country (Matilda Saga #4) by Jackie French

To love a sunburnt country is set in Australia during WWII. It's main character is Nancy Clancy, granddaughter of Clancy of the Overflow, and a worthy ancestor of Clancy as she is very much a girl who loves to be out in the bush and has a deep love and understanding for her sunburnt country. As the book opens Nancy is in Malaya, having gone there to help her older brother Ben, and his wife Moira pack up to return to Australia. She ends up staying longer than she intended because Moira has given birth to Gavin and she has been too ill to travel. By the time they are ready to do so the Japanese have begun to invade Malaya and, though they flee to Singapore, it is too late. They do escape on a boat but it is torpedoed and sunk and Nancy, Moira and Gavin are washed up on an island and put into a prison camp with 10 other women. Their time in the prison camp and their struggle to survive malnourishment and disease is poignantly narrated by Jackie. Little Gavin is the one thing that binds both the women and their Japanese guards together, and keeps them going. In keeping Gavin alive they have something to cling onto and to live for despite the terrible conditions that they endure.

The book moves back and forth between the family and friends in Australia, and how they are faring during the war, and Nancy’s prison camp. Interspersed are details about what has happened to Nancy's brother, Ben. None of the family and friends know whether Nancy, Moira, Gavin and Ben have survived but they continue to hope. When Nancy left for Malaya she had met, and begun a tentative relationship with, Matilda's son, Michael. It is through his eyes that we see the events unfolding in Australia and the agonising wait everyone has to see if Nancy, Moira , Gavin and Ben will survive.

Even though this is part of the Matilda Saga series it can be read as a standalone book as there is enough information in the book to give you background on all the characters. This I think is her best book yet in the series. It is a wonderful sweeping saga which will keep you engrossed till the end and will shock you at times as well as make you weep and smile.

Rita @ Hawthorn

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