Book Review: Walking by Kim Kelly

Walking…

About the Book:

Sydney, 1948. Brilliant German surgeon, Hugo Winter, is dead, and his protégé, Lucy Brynne, is tasked with sorting his papers. Among them, Lucy finds glimpses of Hugo’s past that paint a disturbing picture of war and prejudice – a portrait of Australia she can barely recognise. That same week, an intriguing patient comes into her care on the orthopaedic ward at Sydney Hospital: one Mr Jim Cleary. Lucy’s experience as an army physiotherapist, as well as her own very personal knowledge of pain, tell her there’s more to this man’s fractured leg than meets the eye. As she pieces together who Jim Cleary really is and the truth behind his injury, she not only falls for his laconic charm, but discovers the rival surgeon who relentlessly persecuted Hugo – a man who will shatter Jim’s life completely now, unless Lucy can stop him.

Inspired by a true story of medical genius and betrayal, Walking is a crisply told tale of bigotry and obsession, love and devastation, one that charts the path of a young woman finding her feet in the world, and the transformative power of kindness that drives her own ambition.


My Thoughts:

I do believe that Kim Kelly must have a secret time machine, some way of stepping back into the past; a magic mirror, maybe? The type of atmosphere she achieves within any story is just so immersive, so authentic, it almost seems impossible that a writer could achieve this from research alone. Her stories are not just supported by research, they are built up out of that research, a distinction that takes her work out of the pile of ‘good historical fiction’ and places it right at the top of the very small pile of ‘brilliant historical fiction’. She is, without doubt, one of my favourite authors, a writer of such honesty and heart, who is not afraid of our nation’s history, but is instead willing to shake it out into the open – even the darkest parts.

Walking is a love letter to love itself. And not just romantic love, but also the love we experience between friends and mentors, parents and parental figures. Where kindness underpinned so much of who Hugo and Lucy were, hatred was what drove Eliot Slade. I thought it was so telling that Eliot spent pretty much his entire career pursuing Hugo in an obsessive and hate filled way, determined to destroy this good and brilliant doctor for no reason other than jealousy born out of professional inadequacy. And yet, to Hugo, Eliot wasn’t even a person that existed upon his radar. It just goes to show that hatred is an emotion that does more damage, in the long run, to the bearer than to its target.

There is a wealth of fascinating information about early orthopaedic surgery within this novel, much of which makes me grateful to the pioneers within this area of medicine. The way injuries were managed and treated has come so far. This era within Walking also seemed to coincide with changing views about quality of life, along with equality of care. But goodness, medicine was certainly an ‘old boys’ club back then, rife with bigotry and sexism, much to the shame of our country that allowed such views to be so firmly institutionalised and influential. When bigotry overrides quality of care, you know you have some serious issues on hand. Lucy, and Hugo before her, each forged their way through a rocky trail, but neither of them let the obstacles prevent them from their end goals. They were such wonderful people to accompany on this story journey.

On a more intimate character level, Kim Kelly used Lucy to deeply explore the destructiveness of gas-lighting within a professional setting and the resultant self-doubt it can wreak upon a person. Anxiety is a very real, and very debilitating condition, and it can affect even the brightest and most brilliant members of society. With Jim Cleary, Kim Kelly articulated the experiences of WWII fighter pilots and the lasting damage their heroism (and the way in which these young men were ‘managed’ throughout the war) had on them both mentally and physically. There are many important themes explored through these two characters, each a little broken but also shining still; that they found each other when they did, at the precise right moment for each of them, is testimony to how love can save a soul (or two).

‘I’m caught in such a storm of gratitude, I let go of everything else at once. Every last tether, every last rope of sadness, shame and fear, and every tear I’ve held inside – years and years of them. It all snaps free.’

~~~

‘I hold her closer. I wish I knew all the shapes and extents of why she would think she was worthless: I know she’s an orphan; I know she hasn’t always had an easy go; I know she pushes herself to punishing lengths to do the right thing – it’s exhausting to watch sometimes.’

There really is so much woven into the story fabric of this novel – spanning two world wars with a Depression in between, Australia was a rapidly changing nation on the one hand, yet hopelessly staid on the other. Walking is ultimately an incredibly uplifting story of history, love, tolerance, and courage; the very best sort of historical fiction written by one of our most dedicated storytellers.

☕☕☕☕☕


Thanks is extended to the author for providing me with a copy of Walking for review.


About the Author:

Kim Kelly is the author of eight novels that explore Australian history, including the bestselling The Blue Mile, the acclaimed Wild Chicory, and UK Pigeonhole favourite, Paper Daisies. Her stories shine a bright light on some forgotten corners of our past, leading readers with warmth, wit and lyrical charm into difficult terrain, through themes of prejudice, conflict and disadvantage – issues that resonate through our world today. In real-life, Kim is a well-known book editor, reviewer and vocal advocate for Australian storytelling. It’s love that fuels her intellectual engine – in fact, she takes love so seriously she once donated a kidney to her husband to prove it, and also to save his life. Originally from Sydney, Kim now lives in historic Millthorpe, Central NSW, where the ghosts are mostly friendly and her grown sons regularly come home to graze.


Walking
Published by Jazz Monkey Publications
Released February 2020

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Walking by Kim Kelly

  1. Thank you for such a generous review, Theresa. I might not have a time machine, but I do have some wonderful comrades in words and ideas. I’ll carry your beautiful thoughts with me always. X

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: #6degrees of separation: in honour of International Women’s Day | Theresa Smith Writes

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