About the Book:
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 easygoing 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?
I enjoyed Burning Fields so much, it really was such a treat to read. Alli Sinclair is a writer who never fails to deliver a great story, and while this newest release of hers is a little different to her previous novels, established fans can rest assured that it contains all of the usual Alli magic. For those who have not read any of Alli’s novels, this is a great one to start with.
I always feel a connection to the stories Alli writes. In this instance, it was the setting. I spent my teenage years living on a Queensland cane farm. It’s common for cane farms to have more than one house, harking back to the days when a farm supported multiple generations. These days, only one generation will usually work a farm and some farmers even live in town, rather than on the farm itself. That was the case for us, we were renting a farm house that was no longer needed, but the cane was at our back fence, and the work sheds were just outside our kitchen window, so we were very much in the thick of it. That roar of a cane fire, the snapping and popping, the sweet smell; it’s like no other sort of fire, the way it rears up and then burns itself out. While the town I was in was not as far north as the one in this novel, it still had a high population of Italian immigrants; my own husband is third generation. This novel was filled with so many familiar things, the nostalgia had me reading long into the night and over breakfast the next day. I loved Burning Fields and it’s going to remain a firm favourite of mine.
Peopled with a cast of all sorts, Burning Fields is a novel that is so rich in atmosphere and authenticity. From the traditionalist father/progressive daughter dynamic to the ease of best friends who have known each other forever, brothers and sisters, men and their Nonnas; the relationships and character interactions were second to none. I adored Rosie, her big heart, her progressivism, and her willingness to work to secure her family’s legacy, she was such a great heroine to follow. She never once frustrated me, I was championing her the whole way, no matter what, or who, she was turning her hand to.
I really enjoyed Tomas’s story and the way it was presented. War complicates so much, and for those who had to live under constant threat, their stories all no doubt contain many shades of grey. For countries such as Italy, who switched sides during the war and were also occupied by both the Allies and the Nazis, their people were put under enormous strain to resist and conform, in equal measure. I had so much admiration for Tomas and for Nonna, with her secret network of women. That’s a story I’d love to read more on! I thought Alli did so well with piecing together a valid picture of Australia post WWII. The roles of women reverting, the racism and suspicion attached to immigrants from certain nationalities, the contention associated with mixed marriages, men suffering from survivor guilt and PTSD expected to just pick up the reins and get on with it; all of these issues were woven tightly into the narrative and explored with thorough authenticity.
While Burning Fields is driven by a love story, it’s very firmly an historical fiction, an exploration of multi-cultural history within Australia against a background of social change. This novel has wide appeal and I will be recommending it highly far and wide.
Thanks is extended to Harper Collins Publishers Australia for providing me with a copy of Burning Fields for review.
About the Author:
Alli Sinclair is Australian born but spent her early adult years traveling the globe: scaling mountains in Nepal, Argentina, and Peru, rafting the Ganges, and riding a camel in the Sahara. She lived in Argentina and Peru and it was there her love of dance bloomed. When she wasn’t working as a tour guide, Alli could be found in the dance halls dancing the tango, salsa, merengue, and samba. Alli now lives in Geelong, Victoria.
Paperback: ISBN 9781489256591 Mira AU $29.99
eBook: ISBN 1489256601 Mira $11.99