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The Country Wedding Paperback – December 1, 2017
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Flora is back home after leaving an abusive partner she is a gifted violinist and is practising for a new position she is staying in town and lying low so to speak but when she is asked to play in a quartet for a very good friend’s wedding she is happy to help but this wedding doesn’t go to plan and this is not the first time that this beautiful little church has seen a betrayal of love and Flora is feeling the grooms heartache you see she has had a crush on Mitch Cavello since she was a young girl and Mitch came to stay on the property she grew up on, so here starts a journey that brings a lot of drama into Flora’s life.
Hattie Bellamy spent her younger years in Shanghai with her very English family exploring the markets and lots of other exciting things but with the war getting closer and fear takes over her widowed mother Rose brings Hattie to Australia to be safe and there she meets Joe Matthews they spend a lot of time growing up on Joe’s parents property Kooringal they fall in love and plan to marry but plans get turned around and Joe marries someone else in the little church in Burralea. Hattie loses her mother Rose and a secret is uncovered and moves to England and gets on with her life but many years later she moves to Brisbane and then the discovery of bones on Kooringal bring her back to Burralea and back to Joe.
There are four people who have a lot to go through to get to their HEA’s and their stories are so moving, emotional and just so captivating this was a book I was really looking forward to after reading The Grazier’s Wife and wow it really is a beauty of a story one that I can highly recommend, I don’t want to give too much away and I hope that I have done this one justice because it is another keeper, one not to be missed thank you MS Hannay you bought me to tears, you made me smile and it will be a while before I stop thinking about Flora, Mitch, Hattie and Joe and the cast of wonderful characters that made this story so very enjoyable. Don’t miss this one.
Many years later Flora Drummond had fled Melbourne to the Atherton Tablelands of Queensland, to the little town of Burralea where she hoped to be able to lie low for a time. Flora’s brother Seth lived in the area with his girlfriend Alice; Seth had recently purchased a property and he had exciting plans for the future. Flora was a violinist and after having to leave her position in the orchestra in Melbourne, hoped to gain a position in Brisbane’s symphony orchestra.
Mitch was Burralea’s small town policeman and his wedding day was fast approaching when he asked Flora if she would be the fourth in the quartet at his wedding. But when Mitch’s bride didn’t show, his humiliation and anger was great. But in a matter of days, Mitch was notified of a strange, sinister find out on Seth’s new property; he was glad to get back to the job – at least he could stop dwelling on his non-wedding…
The Country Wedding by Aussie author Barbara Hannay is an exceptional story of love lost, second chances and how circumstances can affect people way into the future. A story laced with mystery, intrigue and heartache, The Country Wedding is set in far north Queensland and spans generations across the continents. Told in two timelines – past and current day – it captured my imagination and held me enthralled until the very end. Once again, this author has nailed it! Highly recommended.
True romance, jilted weddings, domestic violence and a police procedural
The Country Wedding by Barbara Hannay
Michael Joseph (Penguin Random House Australia), 2017, 417 pages
‘…Joe’s terrible dilemma, and the choice he’s made between the girl he loved and the girl he believed he had made pregnant. She [Hattie] thought of the distressing choice that Lily, her own mother, had been forced to make in war-torn Shanghai, between keeping her child and keeping the man she loved.’( P408)
Choices made on the run, when one was young. Three strands. So many balls in the air. A Russian violinist and an English girl in Shanghai; Joe and his one night stand with a sassy barmaid; a country cop and a schoolteacher.
Three generations – Lily’s delayed marriage and an adopted-out Hattie, farmer Joe who never made it to his original wedding, the cop who was left standing at the altar. This is a novel which expands the horizons – pre-war China, American troops in far north Queensland, beautiful music, song and dance in a tropical highlands country town.
Plot-wise it’s too complex leading to convenient resolutions at the expense of the characters.
Flora, a young violinist fleeing from a toxic relationship with a baritone, makes it back to her home town and former orphaned and unsettled heart throb, Sergeant Mitch Cavello.
This is the beginning of an exciting story. Trouble is this contemporary setting opens at the second chapter.
Chapter one is vintage 1958 and goes back to pre-war China. Sure Hattie the illegitimate daughter of a White Russian; Jilted by Joe for Gloria; and her return to Burralea is going to be the major part of the story, but this chapter could have been deleted altogether and the novel begun at Chapter Two.
Chapter Six reintroduces/introduces Hattie who after two marriages returns to the town for a visit, where she meets up with Joe a widower with a critical small-minded daughter, and a witness (also with Hattie) in the investigation into human remains.
Sergeant Cavello, about to seek a transfer out of embarrassment of being jilted, is diverted by this investigation. He also sees the need to protect his former schoolgirl crush Flora who is preparing for an audition to the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
Flora and Mitch’s romance obviously develops despite the hurt to each of them. Flora’s former lover Oliver turns up on a nasty violin destroying mission to be eventually removed from the scene.
Small town gossip, nosey but caring neighbours, a sympathetic Anglican priest, successful farmers with successful families. Beautiful highlands weather interrupted by the big wet and its oppressive build up. Families and friends enjoying Christmas, visits to Brisbane and Cairns. Perfect conservative country, contrasting with the Japanese invasion of China and black American GIs mutinying in Townsville.
Truly a smorgasbord to delight any reader looking for romance, adventure, some detective work and the victory of good over evil, despite doubtful decisions made early in the protagonists’ lives.
The race card is respectfully orchestrated. Chinese man-English woman, Russian Jew-English woman, African-American soldier-Australian girl, hard-working Italian-Anglo/Celtic relationships in the Atherton Tablelands.
Nothing about Murri or the possibility of Murri farm workers. Or overseas backpackers.
Now here’s a challenge for Hannay and the romance genre. (I alluded to this in my critique of Moonlight Plains).When will she attempt a romantic Aboriginal-Balanda relationship? A problem for a book cover too.
Barbara Hannay has a way with words. Don’t throw them away. She’s not up with the F word. It’s introduced on page 36 and occasionally appears throughout the novel. Unless it’s in dialogue (even then this is problematic) F… appears to be extraneous and quite unnecessary. This is not said out of prudery. F… does not fit comfortably with the professional style and approach of this ambitious and challenging novel.
The balls are still in the air with The Country Wedding. Too complex, and exhausting for the author no doubt. Fewer players would allow relationships to develop at a more revealing and sympathetic pace.
I give her four stars all round – true romance and literary style.
Martin Kerr’s New Guinea Patrol was first published in 1973. His cult memoir, short stories and seven novels are available on Kindle.