A lively and youthful new rural romance from an exciting debut Australian author.
They were best friends who were never meant to fall in love – but for one of them, it was already way too late.
Willow ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Tom Forrest were raised on neighbouring cattle stations in the heart of the Kimberley. As young adults, sharing the same life dreams, something came between them that Willow cannot forget. Now ten years have passed since she’s even spoken to Tom.
When her father falls ill, Willow is called home to take over the running of the family property, Paterson Downs. Her vision for a sustainable, organic cattle station is proving hard to achieve. She needs Tom’s help, but is it too late, and all too complicated, to make amends?
Tom’s heartfelt, decade-old letters remain unopened and unmentioned between them, and Willow must find the courage to finally read them. Their tattered pages reveal a love story like no other – and one you’ll never forget.
Dear Banjo is a wildly romantic and utterly captivating story about first love and second chances from an exciting new Australian author.
I have to state, right up front, that I enjoyed this novel immensely. To me, the story was rather reminiscent of McLeod’s Daughters, but in the very best of ways, and I felt myself slipping into quite a comforted state of being each evening as I read my next hundred pages or so.
I love the representation of Australia that is depicted within this novel. Sprawling stations, communities within themselves, and deep connections to the land and each other. Through Willow’s and Tom’s shared passion for organic beef production, Sasha Wasley was able to weave the subject of sustainable organic farming deep into the narrative and I found this focus of the novel quite fascinating, along with the notion of continuing on with the family farm but with a newer, more sustainable long term aspect. The environmental and welfare implications for this interested me greatly and I enjoyed the accessible way Sasha presented this topic.
The challenges Willow faced when returning to the station were quite realistic and stretched her character well. We saw Willow shift and grow in such a positive way throughout the story, both within herself as well as within her family relationships, within her employee relationships, and of course, within her relationship with Tom. This type of character development is not always so apparent, particularly in a story where there are quite a few other things going on all at once. Often times one aspect may get sacrificed for the other and it takes skill to balance a great story with realistic character development, and I feel Sasha Wasley handled this brilliantly in Dear Banjo.
Much of the background to Willow’s and Tom’s relationship was communicated through Tom’s ten year old unread letters to ‘Banjo’. I’ve always been partial to letters within novels, so I was quite looking forward to these parts of the story and they did not disappoint. The letters were heartfelt, honest, and above all, realistic. There’s a tendency with letters and diaries within novels to sometimes become a ‘dumping ground’ for backstory. Again, it’s all about balance; explanation versus emotion. Sasha found the right balance from the get-go and maintained this well, Tom’s mounting frustration and heartache coming through as the letters progressed. Likewise, the letters Willow wrote to Tom towards the end of the novel were also very well done. In trying to find the perfect way to tell Tom she was sorry and that she loved him, Willow also laid herself bare and turned a corner that had previously been so far off for her. A true ‘coming of age’ moment that is quite memorable taken within the context of Tom’s follow-up grand gesture.
Billed as a rural romance, I felt this novel could be more adequately described as a turn in the road coming of age love story, but I guess rural romance is more concise! The personal journey for Willow was as much of an integral part of the story as the relationship between Willow and Tom. I’m so pleased to find out that this is the first in a series as I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and looked forward to getting lost in its pages each night. It will be lovely to return to these characters and see what Sasha has in store for Beth and Free, as well as to check in with Willow and Tom as they forge ahead with their new life and shared vision for their stations. As far as rural fiction goes, Dear Banjo is one of the best I’ve read in a very long time.
Thanks is extended to the author, Sasha Wasley, for providing me with a copy of Dear Banjo, via the publisher, Penguin Books Australia, for review.
Dear Banjo is released officially on May 29th 2017.
Dear Banjo is book 31 of my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.