67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
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.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
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.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
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
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2012
I just can't seem to finish it.
It's absolutely ridiculous the amount of times I've clicked to it on my kindle and read a bit, gotten bored, and then taken breaks from it. I've read and finished several other books while attempting to finish this one...
I don't regret getting it as there are some very interesting parts of Beattie's story that will stay with me for a while, it's just that there are so many other parts that plateau and have me wanting to skip pages.
The story centers around two women's lives told in different time periods. Throughout the story there is an unfolding of events that show you how Beattie grows from a naive young Scottish girl into a successful designer and wool farm owner and how her granddaughter, Emma, deals with two very hard issues in her life, and discovers her grandmother's real story.
Beattie's story is much more interesting than Emma's.
I did find the beginning of Emma's story to be intriguing and it is interesting seeing her discover more about her grandmother, but Oh My Gosh(!) her story is so, so, so, so, so boring! :( It's painful. Every mundane detail of her life is described and believe me it is NOT fun to read. It's as if the author tried to stretch out Emma's story as much as she possibly could in order to fill up space (to make Emma's story & journey somewhat comparable to Beatties, which it definitely isn't). Many of the times I put this book aside were either during or at the end of Emma's chapters. (Although there were some real plateau's in Beattie's chapters that had me bored as well). I probably will finish this book eventually since I only have about 15% of it left, but I know at this point I will just be skipping and/or skimming over Emma's chapters.
As far as Beattie's story is concerned, now that I'm at the end of it (not the end of the book, but I've finished seeing Beattie grow from naive, young girl into the capable, heartbroken/but married, successful woman she turns out to be) I am soooo disappointed. The author spends way more time describing her trials and turmoil in her young years then she does SHOWING Beattie as a self-made, complex woman. She just skips over it! It makes me feel like I didn't get any fulfillment from her story -it didn't get realized completely -and I guess the best way to put it is I didn't get satisfaction from it at all... She becomes so one-dimensional in her grief for two important people (don't want to put spoilers in here!). It just leaves me very unsatisfied.
Perhaps this is why I put the book 'away' in my kindle this last time. Because I know Beattie's story completely now and am disappointed... and I'm not very invested at all in Emma's story.
Because of these things it's very hard for me to recommend this book, though again there were some scenes/parts of Beattie's story I did like and enjoyed reading.
ALSO, there are two things I absolutely have to say. One: technology. It's just so incredibly outdated in this book. It is best to read Emma's story as if it takes place in early 90's. (Seriously, what modern woman is going to move and not take her cell phone??).
TWO: religion! Oh my gosh did I feel like I was being preached at through this entire story (as in, not once or twice, but it is pervading!). And the author's basic message is this: Christians only ACT and pretend to be Christ-like because they want to look good in front of other people --however they REALLY are judgemental, immoral haters who steal other people's children and talk bad about others behind their backs. Literally almost (and I put *almost* because I didn't take a tally or anything, though I'm pretty sure it's more like ALL) of the bad/mean/antagonistic characters in this story are Christians. So, if you are a Christian and will take offense to this, I definitely don't recommend this book to you. There is no redeeming character, or opposing character to show what Christians should be, they are all just bad, even if they seem to be 'good' when they are first introduced.
So anyway, this has been my experience with this story. I really, really wanted to wait till I was completely finished to write this review, but as that may not be till sometime in 2013 I decided to go ahead and write this now. Hopefully this will help someone else out. I most DEFINITELY don't recommend spending $12.99 on the kindle edition -if you are very interested I would recommend buying the paperback edition, new or used, because even with shipping it will be less.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2012
A series of heart-breaking incidents grips the reader from the very first page in Kimberley Freeman's new novel, Wildflower Hill. Cherished secrets and forbidden love take prominence in a story of two very different women whose lives are defined not only by the paths they take, but those that are denied them. Beattie in particular is a vivid, intriguing presence, her modest fortitude taking her from poverty in the dark tenements of Britain to unimagined wealth in the sunny but no less challenging landscape of Australia in a time when women could not easily assert themselves. So extraordinary is Beattie's tale that it seems unfair to compare her with present day Emma, the self-absorbed ballerina whose best years are already behind her. But despite their all-too-apparent flaws, both characters prove admirable and sympathetic heroines, their struggles familiar enough to anyone with experience of the unexpected obstacles life can toss up to frustrate us.
Throughout, Freeman demonstrates a masterful command of time and place. The early, poignant Glasgow scenes are striking, but it's the heady evocation of pre-war Tasmania that dominates the book and ultimately informs the decisions that will inspire Emma to leave her own troubled home to investigate the darker corners of her grandmother's history, providing the catalyst for the secrets of a life of quiet courage and illicit romance on an isolated Australian homestead to finally be revealed.
A superbly crafted novel spanning almost a century, with powerful themes that will linger long with you, Wildflower Hill is guaranteed to touch the heart of even the most cynical reader. If you believe that life - and love - can be lost or found on the turn of a card, you won't fail but be seduced.
Review by Jamie Simpson on behalf of BestChickLit.com
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2012
So when I found this book in one of the used bookstores I've always visiting for $2.95 in mint condition I had to by it and I had even completely forgotten that it had been on my Goodreads TBR shelf for almost 6 months.
I really had no intention of reading it the other day but I've been having a problem with focusing on my books so I picked it up on a whim and before I knew it I was 100 pages in and then of course life got in the way just as the book was really starting to go somewhere. By the time I was able to pick it up again it was around 10 p.m.. I finished it by 2 a.m. I just couldn't put it down.
The book was actually a lot different than I thought it would be. I knew going into it just by reading the summary that the book was a sort of family saga but I wasn't expecting it to be quite like this one and I mean that in the best of ways.
I became very attached to Beattie's (Emma's grandmother) character. In fact she turned out to be my favourite character over all in the book. Her resilience, determination and spirit were what made me love her character so much. Despite the twisted life that fate handed her she was able to rise above it.
I loved how the book too us from the streets of Glasgow to halfway across the world in Tasmania on Beattie's journey. The evolution of her character throughout the book seemed so real. She went from being a victim of circumstance to taking charge of her life even when she had to face the cruelest of heartbreaks. Throughout the novel I felt as if I were there along side Beattie watching her grow and change, deal with happiness and extreme sadness and every time something horrible happened to her I would sort of feel my own heart breaking with hers.
However, on the other hand of the spectrum is Emma. Beatti's prima ballerina granddaughter. I wasn't exceptionally fond of her character because Emma is one of those women who has to have everything about them. You know the type, those who when life finally catches up to them and they have to be like the rest of us mortal women turns inward and just whines. Yep, that's Emma. The thing is though eventually Emma gets past a lot of her selfish tendencies and she turns a new leaf and suddenly...when you're reading her parts of the book you start to like her a little more because you can see a bit of the gumption that aided her grandmother so much in her life shine through in her.
As you can probably guess I really loved this book. I haven't read a book that makes my heart physically ache for the characters in some time. It was wonderful that Kimberley Freeman had such talent that she was able to draw me into the book in such a way that it was as if I was experiencing every ounce of emotion in her book. I for one cannot wait to add more books by this author to my collection.
If you're looking for a novel to transport you to a different time and place this is the one for you. The way that the author was able to construct such an authentic tale of life in Tasmania in the early 1930's for Beattie's part of the novel was amazing and the fact that the book switched from hers to Emma's point of view so seamlessly made this an amazingly moving read. If you want something that makes you think, make your heartbreak and then build it back up again I highly suggest trying this novel. It's one that I will never forget and one that I plan on reading over and over again. If you love historical fiction please give this a try. The author is so talented I can't imagine anyone not loving this book.