The Lost Valley…
About the Book:
Tasmania, 1929: Ten-year-old-twins, Tom and Harry Abbott, are orphaned by a tragedy that shocks Hobart society. They find sanctuary with their reclusive grandmother, growing up in the remote and rugged Binburra ranges – a place where kind-hearted Tom discovers a love of the wild, Harry nurses a growing resentment towards his brother and where the mountains hold secrets that will transform both their lives.
The chaos of World War II divides the brothers, and their passion for two very different women fuels a deadly rivalry. Can Tom and Harry survive to heal their rift? And what will happen when Binburra finally reveals its astonishing secrets?
From Tasmania’s highlands to the Battle of Britain, and all the way to the golden age of Hollywood, The Lost Valley is a lush family saga about two brothers whose fates are entwined with the land and the women they love.
The Lost Valley is a sweeping family saga in the tradition of Di Morrissey, lined with drama and beating with a conservationists heart. Taking us back to Tasmania in the 1930s and spanning through to beyond the second world war, we get an intimate look at life in Tasmania during the depression era and prosperous post war years following the hardship.
As well as telling the story of twins, Tom and Harry, we meet Emma, a bright young woman on the cusp of a prosperous future, only to have circumstances beyond her control snatch it away and steer her onto a path she would never have otherwise contemplated. The inclusion of Emma’s story was a bonus for me. She was smart, determined, so dedicated to her mother; but above all, full of intent with regards to her independence. Her story highlights the more tragic side of Australian society in the 1920s and 1930s, a place where the options for women’s employment were still so limited, their roles still defined by a misogynistic view that was not in keeping with the rampant poverty prevalent. Emma’s story wasn’t a pretty one, but it was fundamentally realistic.
Tom and Harry were a complicated pair, both bearing such a tragic legacy, each wanting to prove himself and his worth. It was sad, to see their sibling relationship so fractured, and in all honesty, despite her very best of intentions and overall motivations, their nana really fostered much of this contention through her affinity with Tom, and her subsequent inflammatory favouritism. In many ways this is a cautionary tale, about the dangers of putting one child over another. You can’t give all to one and very little to another without serious consequences. In this case, the tensions between the brothers build and build, until it all rises to the fore in an explosive situation with roots buried deep in the past. It was very tragic indeed.
There were many instances of shallow behaviour demonstrated between the brothers, Harry more than Tom, but it didn’t always sit well with me. In many ways, this is a very compressed novel, with events unfolding rapidly with great chunks of time passing quickly. This did lead to some moments, particularly with Tom and his rushed wedding for example, where I just felt as though things had moved too fast with events jolting out of character. There was little breathing space, to just be in the moment with the story unfolding, and some of the behaviours that Tom and Harry indulged in that bothered me might have been less so if the events had been slowed. Much of this is me though, and my expectations around a family saga. I did expect the novel to be much longer, and in essence, it could have been, another third again, to allow that slower pacing and more authentic unravelling of the drama and increased enrichment of the character development.
The shining part of this novel was the conservation angle, the animal welfare and preservation of endangered species. Any story that has a mismanaged zoo or circus from the past tugs at me. I am often overcome after reading historical novels with these themes on the utter wastage that we have indulged in. Species critically endangered, extinct, under threat; that these animals were allowed to die in captivity due to poor management is such a terrible legacy we hold as humans. Jennifer’s focus on the zoo in Hobart as one such example was utterly heartbreaking. On the flip side of course is Tom’s focus on protecting the thylacines. I loved this part of the story and the magic of the lost valley really entranced me. It was all so atmospheric and deeply meaningful.
‘The tiger yawned wide in an intimidating display of threat. Tom stood transfixed. Here was more than stories and tracks and cries in the night. Here was a living, breathing thylacine, an animal that had walked the earth for millions of years longer than humans had. An animal the world believed to be extinct.’
The Lost Valley was an absorbing read that I raced through. I may have wished for it to be longer, but only because I enjoyed it so much and craved for more. I highly recommend The Lost Valley to those who love Australian history, family dramas and stories with a strong environmental theme. It would make a pretty good book club selection too, as there is much to ponder and a whole host of discussion points to ricochet off.
Thanks is extended to the author for providing me with a copy of The Lost Valley for review.
About the Author:
Jennifer Scoullar is a bestselling author of Australian rural fiction, and lives with her family on a small property in West Gippsland. Her house is on a hilltop, overlooking valleys of messmate and mountain ash. She grew up on the books of Elyne Mitchell, and all her life she’s ridden and bred horses, in particular Australian stock horses. Jennifer writes page-turning stories set in and around Australia’s magnificent wild places. She has seven published novels: Wasp Season (Sid Harta 2008), Brumby’s Run (Penguin 2012), Currawong Creek (Penguin 2013), Billabong Bend (Penguin 2014), Turtle Reef (Penguin 2015), Journey’s End (Penguin 2016), Fortune’s Son (Penguin 2017), and The Lost Valley, (2018).
The Lost Valley
Published by Pilyara Press
Released 27th August 2018