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Friday, June 15, 2018

Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair

Title: Burning Fields
Author: Alli Sinclair
Publisher: 21 May 2018 by Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, romance, womens fiction
My Rating: 3.5 crowns

1948. The world is struggling to regain a sense of balance after the devastation of World War II, and the sugar cane-growing community of Piri River in northern Queensland is no exception.
As returned servicemen endeavour to adjust to their pre-war lives, women who had worked for the war effort are expected to embrace traditional roles once more.
Rosie Stanton finds it difficult to return to the family farm after years working for the Australian Women’s Army Service. Reminders are everywhere of the brothers she lost in the war and she is unable to understand her father’s contempt for Italians, especially the Conti family next door. When her father takes ill, Rosie challenges tradition by managing the farm, but outside influences are determined to see her fail.
Desperate to leave his turbulent history behind, Tomas Conti has left Italy to join his family in Piri River. Tomas struggles to adapt in Australia—until he meets Rosie. Her easy-going nature and positive outlook help him forget the life he’s escaped. But as their relationship grows, so do tensions between the two families until the situation becomes explosive.
When a long-hidden family secret is discovered and Tomas’s mysterious past is revealed, everything Rosie believes is shattered. Will she risk all to rebuild her family or will she lose the only man she’s ever loved?
My Thoughts

‘Sometimes the biggest battles are the ones we have inside us.’

Burning Fields is a historical fiction novel by Aussie author Alli Sinclair. Having previously enjoyed Alli’s other books (HERE) it was a fresh change to find her delve into the sugar cane fields of far north Queensland just after the conclusion of WWII. Although there is a love story here, I would suggest that the stronger plot is that of Australia’s multicultural history and the background to social and cultural changes that were occurring at the time.

There are also flashbacks to fill in details regarding Tomas’s thoughts and actions in Italy during the war. I thought this was well done and a clever way to backfill information. Using this information, combined with events in Queensland straight after the war, helped to demonstrate how complicated war is - none more so than for Italian citizens who found themselves switching alliances part way and the terrible angst and pressure it placed on those who remained to either conform or resist. As in the case of Tomas, nothing is as it seems - and for good reason.

There is much to appreciate about this read. Everything from:  wartime Italy, Italian family bonds (love Nonna), to life as an immigrant in ‘White Australia’ especially in the far rural reaches of the Queensland cane fields - racism was rife. I loved the descriptions of town life and the distances and strong community that was conveyed. Alli also touched on the struggle for women post war and the expectation of returning to their prewar roles after having contributed so much for the war effort. The  attitude towards women, not only sexism in a professional capacity, but also during social circumstances.

I congratulate Alli for tackling some topical issues - not only of the past but seen through present eyes, as it will surely would stimulate conversation. These issues set against a enticing location, combined with engaging relationships - Tomas and Rosie, Nonna and Rosie’s mother and father - will provide a most entertaining story for readers.

Tomas guided her hand upwards and rested it over her heart ...
‘This is where home is. I have spent too long trying to figure out what home means to me and I have finally come to the realisation that your home is wherever you feel love.’
‘Not Italy?’
‘Not Italy. Not Australia. Not the moon. Here,’ he squeezed her hand that still lay over her heart.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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