Steeped in the landscape and colors of its locations, this deft and graceful novel about memory and discovery follows the orphaned Billie through her childhood in Italy to the United Kingdom during World War II with her adopted family, to art school, and then, finally, to a new life as an adult in Australia. With an evocative eye for personality and place, the narrative alternates between Billie's past, unearthed in her diaries and memories, and her present-day reclusive life on an Australian island, recently interrupted by the unannounced arrival of her niece, Lorelei, and Lorelei's daughter, Elissa, from England. As their lives intertwine, Billie comes to accept and appreciate the importance of family and identity as she faces the memories and secrets that she had hoped to forever leave behind.
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Catherine Padmore has recently completed a PhD in writing and is fiction writing lecturer at La Trobe University, Melbourne.
This richly detailed tale of one woman's self-discovery is set against an international backdrop in the years surrounding World War II. Heartbreaking at times, it follows Billie from her idyllic childhood on the Mediterranean in Italy through her troubled childhood and young adulthood in England until it finally finds her peacefully settled into a quasi-hermit existence along a river in northern Australia. Through all her experiences, her acutely artistic view of her surroundings informs the story. The landscapes, people, and every last physical detail of Billie's world are rendered with an artist's eye, and Billie finds her only peace in re-creating her world on paper in her many sketchbooks. The almost instinctual way she draws, without thinking, often results in surprising images, even to her, and it is also thus with Padmore's writing. The writing is visually evocative and takes its time with much physical description, with dialogue doing the barest minimum to move the plot. A solid first novel. Debi Lewis
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