on August 18, 2011
Wildflower Hill is a poignant tale of two women living in different decades but whose lives are strongly intertwined. I dearly loved this book! The story of Beattie and her granddaughter Emma was completely absorbing. Beattie was a Scottish immigrant who moved to Tasmania, Australia, at the start of the Great Depression. Someone had told her once that "there are two types of women in the world...those who do things, and those who have things done to them." As a poor, unwed mother, she kept that thought in the forefront of her mind as she struggled against poverty and prejudice. Against insurmountable odds, she became the owner of a prosperous sheep farm in rural Tasmania, though it was not without great hardship and heartache.
Set in 2009, Emma's story is effortlessly woven in with Beattie's. Emma is a prima ballerina in London. Proud of her success as a dancer, she didn't realize how it had totally consumed her life until a knee injury put an end to her career. Left with no other options, she returns home to Sydney. Emma is told that she has inherited a farm in Tasmania that her grandmother ran in the 1930s. Beattie had not been there for many years and used the place for storage, so Emma decides to head south to clean out the place in order to sell it. Upon arrival Emma finds boxes and boxes full of Beattie's old possessions, including letters, photos and business records. As Emma sorts through everything, she slowly uncovers family secrets buried for decades.
I have not been moved by a book quite so much in a very long time. I really enjoyed the author's writing style, including the rich descriptions of the settings. It was easy to picture myself there too. Wildflower Hill stirred up many emotions for me - heartache, joy, anger, and frustration. Ultimately it is a very inspirational story about the power of perseverance and realizing what is truly important in life. Both Beattie and Emma were strong female characters written in a way that I felt like I was sharing their experiences with them. I loved how important parts of the story were told through old-fashioned letters. The last letter written by Beattie that Emma finds had me sobbing. The ending was bittersweet and very satisfying. I would highly recommend Wildflower Hill to fans of women's fiction. It is a story that will stay with me for a long time.
SOURCE: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Emma is a world-renowned ballerina - she knows no other life, nor does she desire one. But when a fall ends her career, she doesn't know what to do. Her whole life has been revolved around dance, her boyfriend recently broke up with her and she has only a handful of friends - all dancers. She goes home to her parents and learns that she inherited a sheep ranch from her late grandmother. She decides to go to Tasmania, a small community, and clear out the house's contents so she can sell it.
There, she begins to unpack items from hundreds of boxes of her grandmother's life, pieces of a puzzle that she can't seem to reconnect. She makes new friends, helps a studio of girls with Down syndrome with ballet and begins to find herself again.
Meanwhile, the story flashes back to Beattie, Emma's grandmother. Her troubles when she is young, falling in love with a dashing married man. When her mother finds out Beattie is pregnant, she tosses her out. With no help from Henry, she goes to a home for unmarried women. Her shame is great, but when Henry appears, she is delighted. They run off together and begin to make a new life with their infant daughter, Lucy. But Henry drowns his troubles with liquor and Beattie can't live that life anymore, so she takes Lucy and escapes. She begins to pick up the pieces of her life again and eventually wins a sheep farm in a poker game.
However, her troubles are only beginning. Henry returns for Lucy, but this time with his wife. She decides to split custody with them, even though it breaks her heart. But finding her greatest love helps her with their separation, until her greatest love dies and Henry takes Lucy and doesn't tell Beattie where they have gone.
Between Beattie's unique and heartbreaking life and Emma trying to find herself and what she desires in her heart for the future, Wildflower Hill is a magnificent saga that will find a place within your heart. Beattie's fashion designs and her determination build the foundation for the new generation. Emma's story was solid but I found myself immersed with Beattie's story. The struggles she went through, the heartbreak and her triumphs, she is a strong and complex character who I grew to love. Wildflower Hill is a wonderful read that I highly recommend. I just wish there was a sequel! I would love to spend more time with these characters.
on August 29, 2011
Wildflower Hill is a lush historical romance that doesn't have the mushiness of so many romances. This well written novel moves back and forth between granddaughter and grandmother. The sections about present day Emma, a prima ballerina in the beginning of the book, is predictable but enjoyable. The sections about Beattie, a young, pregnant English girl, are rich and full of love and dismay, courage and sorrow, daring and independence. Her story moves from her nineteenth year through her maturity and timely death.
The backgrounds, first of London with its buzz and grayness, then, of a small farm community of Tasmania, are vibrant and realistic. Noticeable are the different qualities of rain in each community--London being oppressive and the countryside of Tasmania at the bottom of the world being nurturing. The contrast continues within Emma's emotions as she travels from one country to the other.
Freeman does a fine job developing not only her main characters but her minor ones as well. She gives us an authentic feel for both London and Tasmanian society in the 1930's. Tillie Harrow, the small town storekeeper, for instance, represents the prejudices of the time while being a strong if unsympathetic example. Henry, a major character through the novel, Beattie's lover and father of Lucy, is believable as a weak, most often kind gentleman.
Wildflower Hill is a lovely read, difficult to put down, once begun.
by Judith Helburn
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
on July 18, 2012
As a lover of historical fiction AND chick lit, I knew this would be the book for me. Throw in some serious romance and you've got a hit.
Emma is introduced to us as a selfish ballerina without a care in the world but herself. How she evolves throughout the book is amazing. Her volunteer work within the community in rural Australia is inspiring.
Beattie leaves her hometown with no family to call her own after being disowned by her family when they find out she is pregnant, and unwed. The pain and suffering she endures throughout the book would be enough to knock anyone down for the count, but she gets up each timer, stronger than the time before.
I loved reading about the house on Wildflower Hill. Maybe it's just because I am an old house junkie, but the history contained within the walls of the house is amazing.
The way that Beattie kept a reminder of her true love all those years with the painting of the gum tree was incredibly heartwarming.
I was more into Beattie's story than Emma's. Emma's lacked something, although I'm not sure what it was.
I wish there was more time spent talking about restoring the house.
The Wrap Up:
This was a really good historical fiction novel. Would I call it wonderful? Probably not. But, it was a quick and entertaining read that actually taught me things about Australia and their native people.
"There are two types of women in the world, Beattie, those who do things and those who have things done to them."
on April 24, 2014
This is a truly gifted author, but as the story progressed with crisis after crisis, there was not enough joy to balance the heartaches. I was particularly disappointed in the ending when I thought I might FINALLY get some satisfaction---oh no, she wants you to write your OWN ending.
The author shines a bright light on hypocrisy, but then reveals her own prejudices as she portrays EVERY CHARACTER
who is affiliated with organized religion as mean spirited, fanatical and even dangerous. There must have been SOME religious people in the 1930s who were not foaming at the mouth! Because she does write so beautifully, I am going to try another title, but hope she doesn't kill me off with her endless heartaches.
on May 22, 2012
This Australian writer captures a vigorous, upbeat spirit that so characterized American and English novels of the early to middle 20th century, but which seems to have become a rarity in recent years-- sadly. I cannot remember the last critically praised American novel that wasn't replete with morose characters paralyzed, to a greater or lesser extent, by their own/their partners'/their children's latest neuroses.
This is not to suggest that Ms. Freeman's two protagonists are not presented with great obstacles and difficulties: they certainly are. It is just that each adopts a "mistress of my own fate" attitude, a refusal to be victimized, that is welcome and refreshing.
This is a wonderful book to curl up with at the end of a tough day at work. It is intelligent, it is historically and geographically informative, and it is, to some extent, inspiring. It is the best sort of escapist reading, the type that both distracts us from life's annoyances while subtly adjusting our perception of how relatively insignificant some of our problems are, in the face of what really matters in life, and in the face of what is possible.
I absolutely loved this novel, and eagerly await the release of this author's next offering.
on December 22, 2013
I read this book about two years ago. I shied away from writing a review because it's 5 stars, and I always have more trouble writing reviews for 5 star books. Somehow, criticizing an author is easier for me than pinpointing exactly why their book is so wonderful. But let me try.
I read an excerpt of this book on amazon before I bought it. I usually just like to glimpse through a few pages to get a feel for the author's general writing style, but before I knew it, I was reading the beginning of this book line by line. Freeman writes in beautiful prose. You definitely have the sense of being in the room with the characters, and in the mind of the main character.
Another thing I love about Freeman's writing is it's not depressing. The characters in this book go through some horrible experiences: there's poverty, homelessness, racism, ruined careers, death, and a mother being separated from her child. But through it all, there's a theme of hope, determination, and strength. I grew to love and root for the characters she created.
The love story in this book is one of my favorites that I've read. It's one of suppressed passion, before it finally flowers into something beautiful. The hardships they must endure to be with one another, and the courage it takes to confess their love to one another, made my heartbeat quicken in excitement and anticipation.
The book was enthralling. It was my first Kimberley Freeman book, and this earned her a permanent spot on my "authors to keep an eye on" list.
This is a moving story of a woman's triumph over adversity, and the lessons she passes along to her granddaughter. Beattie Blaxland is an amazing character. When the story begins she's nineteen with dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Instead she ends up pregnant and homeless--but not defeated. She's smart, compassionate, hardworking, self-sacrificing, and she stands up for what she believes in. She's not perfect, but she's tough as nails and knows an opportunity when she sees one. She does whatever it takes to provide for her daughter, tackling poverty and bigotry, and the conventions that have long held women back in small-town Australia during the depression and World War II.
In the present day, Beattie's granddaughter Emma comes home to Australia after an exalted, whirlwind career as a prima ballerina ends abruptly due to an injury. Emma and Beattie are two very different women. Beattie's early life was one of struggle and uncertainty; Emma's was one of privilege and status. But Emma has to learn how to live without dancing and without a purpose, how to make friends, and how to take care of herself. She's very surprised to discover that her grandmother left her an old farm estate, Wildflower Hill in Tasmania, and she goes there intending to prepare it for sale. But the house is full of boxes of Beattie's personal belongings--letters, photos, mementos--and as Emma goes through them she begins to discover who her grandmother really was and how much Wildflower Hill meant to her. Along the way she learns a lot about her own capabilities and what's truly important in life.
I was utterly absorbed in this story from start to finish. The writing is lovely, the characterization is rich, the pacing is perfect, the narrative switches between Beattie in the past and Emma in the present in all the right places; I laughed, I cried, I got angry--and I never wanted it to end. But end it did, and it was one of the most satisfying, fitting, and perfect endings I've seen in a long time. Loved it!
on December 9, 2011
I must say that after reading the reviews I thought that this was going to be fantastic. I was very disappointed. The story kept my interest: although I found Beattie's story much more interesting than Emma's. I actually found myself skimming through Emma's story to get back to Beattie. At the beginning, I couldn't put down the book while reading about Beattie. However, when (spoiler) her ex husband and Molly take Lucy with them to Scotland and Beattie doesn't really keep pursuing Lucy I was shocked. Would Beattie really believe that Lucy wrote a letter saying she wanted nothing to do with her mother. PLEASE. This is a women who was smart enough to win an estate in a poker game and she wouldn't go to see her daughter and have a face-to face discussion.
I felt that Emma was just a boring character and I really didn't care much about her personal journey.
So I said three stars because the book will hold your interest but not keep you up late into the night reading.
on October 30, 2013
Emma is a former prima ballerina who is forced to face that fact that she will never dance on stage again due to a career ending injury. A gift from her grandmother leads her to rural Australia. There she discovers family secrets and the lessons that gave her grandmother the strength to struggle from poverty to happiness.
I loved this story. Sometimes when you switch from one story to the other, you find yourself only wanting to read one storyline. I found Emma and Bettie's stories both beautiful and intention grabbing in their own ways. Bettie is a tale of fighting through hardships to build a life for herself, while Emma's is one of learning to live life for herself instead of living for her career. Both are strong woman characters, which is always something I am looking for. And the best part is the strength doesn't manifest itself in cattiness, which often happens in strong female leads.
One of the best books I've read all year, I would strongly recommend this story.