Matters of the Heart…
About the Book:
Western Australia, 2019: The Bennets are a farming family struggling to make ends meet. Lizzy, passionate about working the land, is determined to save the farm. Spirited and independent, she has little patience for her mother’s focus on finding a suitable man for each of her five daughters.
When the dashing Charles Bingley, looking to expand his farm holdings, buys the neighbouring property of Netherfield Park, Mrs Bennet and the entire district of Coodardy are atwitter with gossip and speculation. Will he attend the local dance and is he single? These questions are soon answered when he and Lizzy’s sister Jane form an instant connection on the night. But it is Charlie’s best friend, farming magnate Will Darcy, who leaves a lasting impression when he slights Lizzy, setting her against him.
Can Lizzy and Will put judgements and pride aside to each see the other for who they really are? Or in an age where appearance and social media rule, will prejudice prevail?
Australia’s bestselling storyteller Fiona Palmer reimagines Jane Austen’s beloved classic tale of manners and marriage, transporting an enduring love story in this very twenty-first century novel about family, female empowerment and matters of the heart.
Romance and rural fiction are two genres I tend to avoid; when they are combined, I am even less inclined to read it. However, I do like Pride and Prejudice and this book has popped up in my review feed several times already and it was only just released! One of the reviews was by a blogger who tends to avoid romance as much as I do, so I decided to have a little faith, trust and pixie dust, and give it a go. My body still feels tired from a recent illness so something light and refreshing for mid-week seemed ideal.
Now, when I mentioned above that I like Pride and Prejudice, I may have been under playing my feelings. I adore Pride and Prejudice. Really, really love it. However, I have never much gone in for spin offs and modern retellings. Up until this one, the only other retelling I’d read is Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (which incidentally was very good, but read pre-review days, so sadly, no link). So how does Matters of the Heart hold up? Very well, actually. It is quite a delightful story and the contemporary setting within a rural landscape works very nicely for preserving the Pride and Prejudice essence. The deeper into the story I got, the more I admired Fiona Palmer’s ability to retell this classic story so closely to the original without at all appearing repetitive. I kept smiling at the scenes that popped up, delighting in the way they mirrored events in the original, but within their own contemporary Australian rural living context. Mrs Bennet was hilarious. She really had no shame. And those younger girls, Lydia and Kitty. Poor Jane and Lizzie. No wonder Mary stayed away at university! This is really quite an impressive retelling and a very enjoyable read in its own right. There is a lot of interesting information about farming, from the technical day to day management through to the pressures and challenges of farming within the current economic and environmental climate.
The romance takes a backseat to themes of self-worth, manners, and the way we judge other people based on our own perceptions and personalities – earning it a big tick from me. The manners focus works very well within the contemporary setting and I think that Fiona has made some valid points about the type of society we have become. Etiquette seems to have largely fled the scene and stories like this remind us that there is still a place in our world for consideration and kindness – it is almost needed more than ever really. I almost didn’t read this book, judging it on its genre, but manners prevailed and I am the richer for it. Matters of the Heart is a highly enjoyable read that I am happy to recommend widely. Moreover, if you are a Pride and Prejudice fan, this is one retelling you do not want to miss!
Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of Matters of the Heart for review.
About the Author:
Before becoming an author, Fiona Palmer was a speedway driver for seven years and now spends her days writing both women’s and young adult fiction, working as a farmhand and caring for her two children in the tiny rural community of Pingaring, 350km from Perth. The books Fiona’s passionate readers know and love contain engaging storylines, emotions and hearty characters. She has written nine bestselling novels and her most recent book, SISTERS AND BROTHERS, was a Top Ten national bestseller.
Matters of the Heart
Published by Hachette Australia
Released 27th August 2019