On Christmas Eve 1969, a letter from Australia House, London, brings welcome news for newly-weds Anna and Joseph Fletcher.
Young and idealistic, Anna falls passionately in love with their adopted land. Seven months later, an unexpected event causes their life to take a stressful turn.
Years pass, and Anna retreats to a fictional world she has created. But when a different challenge presents itself, does she have the courage to take the risk… or will she take refuge in fantasy?
This is a very enjoyable novel that gives a fascinating insight into the time of mass migration to Australia in the 1970s. Anna and Joseph are delighted to be allowed to take this huge step.
And it is huge, since it involves a long sea voyage to get there. No hopping on a plane back then! They have various stop-offs that open their eyes to the fact that things are done differently in foreign countries. This is the first indicator that life will be rather different in Australia from what it was back home.
We meet our heroine and hero as they are about to embark on their journey, and as it develops so do they. We learn more about them both and their backgrounds, and about how well or otherwise they adapt to their new lives.
As is so often the case, at first everything in their new home seems wonderful and liberating, but gradually they find that there are constraints, and cracks in the façade. The novel goes on to deal with how they cope with these and build their lives around them.
Whilst told in the third person, Anna with her love of literature is the focus of the novel with her friendships, struggles and family experiences. She’s strong, likeable and determined, but not perfect and thus remains reassuringly human.
To me the novel is not only about the country you’re in, but the country you’ve come from. How, even though you may turn you back on it and embrace a new lifestyle, your upbringing, which reflects your national culture, irredeemably shapes you and ingrains itself in you. Anna becomes Australian but she remains British in many ways, and the latter has a strong and lasting impact on her new life.
The ending is perfect, that’s all I’ll say!
Originally from England, Sue worked in university libraries until taking early retirement in 2008 to concentrate on creative writing. Since then she has written short stories, articles, poetry, a short TV drama script and seven novels:
Sannah and the Pilgrim, first in a trilogy of a future dystopian Australia focusing on climate change and the harsh treatment of refugees from drowned Pacific islands. Odyssey Books, 2014. Commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award, 2014. Pia and the Skyman, Odyssey Books, 2016. Commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award, 2016. The Sky Lines Alliance, Odyssey Books, 2016.
Chrysalis, the story of a perceptive girl growing up in a Quaker family in swinging sixties’ Britain. Morning Star Press, 2017
Re-Navigation recounts a life turned upside down when forty-year old Julia journeys from the sanctuary of middle-class Australian suburbia to undertake a retreat at a college located on an isolated Welsh island. Creativia Publishing, 2019.
Feed Thy Enemy, based on Sue’s father’s experiences, is an account of courage and compassion in the face of trauma as a British airman embarks on a plan that risks all to feed a starving, war-stricken family. Creativia Publishing, 2019.
A Question of Country explores the migrant experience through the protagonist’s lifelong search for meaningful identity. Next Chapter (formerly Creativia Publishing), 2020.
Sue’s current project, working title: Twenty-eight Days, first in The Doorkeeper series, is set in Southern Australia in 2100. It deals with overpopulation and extended life expectancy in an increasingly climate-challenged world and the inhumane solutions adopted by a government determined to rid Australia of unproductive citizens.
Passionate about peace and social justice issues, Sue’s goal as a fiction writer is to continue writing novels that address topics such as climate change, the effects of war, the treatment of refugees, feminism and racism. Sue intends to keep on writing for as long as possible, believing the extensive life experiences of older writers can be employed to engage readers of all ages.