Book Review: Summer at Mount Hope by Rosalie Ham

Summer at Mount Hope…

Book Description:

Summer At Mount Hope is the story of a young woman growing up in rural Victoria, Australia, in a time of drought and depression. It is the story of her quest to retain freedom despite the strictures and expectations of family and society.

 

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My Thoughts:

If I had to sum this novel up in one word, I would label it as ‘delightful’. Summer at Mount Hope is a treat, from beginning to end. While it contains all of Rosalie Ham’s trademark black humour, cutting dialogue, and in your face honesty, this novel is softer than her previous one, The Dressmaker. It’s witty, poignant, romantic, and a little bit heartbreaking, all rolled in together. It’s everything a good novel should be.

There is a distinctive Austen/Pride and Prejudice feel to the story that works very well within the setting and time period. The Crupp family are hilarious and Phoeba Crupp, our main character, is nothing short of wonderful. Rosalie Ham has depicted Australian rural life in the 1890s so well, with its ever present dust and vermin; the baking sun beating down on drought stricken land; the lifestyle of the itinerant ‘Swaggie’; the desperation of the Depression; the restrictions and dependency daughters had to endure, as well as sons who were not yet entitled to their inheritance; the balance between solidarity and rivalry that exists between people who live in close quarters. Beneath the witty dialogue and day to day incidents, an entire social tapestry lay exposed within the pages of this novel, and I felt that Rosalie Ham did an excellent job of bearing witness to it.

The cast of characters were fabulous. The ongoing fued between Freckle and the Mailman; Mrs Flynn holding people’s papers and parcels hostage whenever she was offended; Mrs Pearson in her too tight corsets; and Hadley, with his eternal devotion to Phoeba. Every character was unique and entertaining, their place in the community well carved out. A special mention needs to go to Spot, the Crupp family’s loyal horse. Hats off to Rosalie Ham for turning an animal into such an endearing and delightful character.

Summer at Mount Hope was first published in 2005 and re-released late in 2016 with a fresh new look. Even if you weren’t a fan of The Dressmaker (which incidentally I was), I urge you to read Summer at Mount Hope. It reminds me of other Australian classic books and films, most notably Cloudstreet and The Castle. I hope this re-release proves successful for Rosalie Ham.

 

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Summer at Mount Hope is book 11 of my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.

 

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