Book Review: Repentance by Alison Gibbs


About the Book:

It’s the summer of 1976, and the winds of change are blowing through the small town of Repentance on the edge of the Great Dividing Range. The old families farmed cattle and cut timber, but the new settlers, the hippies, have a different perspective on the natural order and humankind’s place in the scheme of things. Soon everything will be disturbed. Either the old growth is coming down or the loggers have to be stopped. And although not everyone agrees on tactics, no one will escape being drawn into the coming confrontation.

A tale of a country town and its rhythms, Repentance is also the story of modern Australia at one of its flashpoints, told tenderly and beautifully through the eyes of characters you won’t forget.

My Thoughts:

“There was no moving upstream, no going back and unknowing the things that you now knew.”

Eco-literature has become one of my favourite sub-genres over the last year and this novel was just sublime. It ebbed and flowed like a gentle stream and even when it was at its most dramatic, there was a stillness to it that allowed you to really sink in and appreciate Alison’s beautiful writing and superb characterisation. I absolutely loved this novel.

Set in a small country town whose primary industries are logging, dairy and beef production, the story spans months across 1976 and pivots around a protest against logging that arises from new residents (hippies) mounting a campaign to ‘save the forest’. Inevitably, the majority of locals find themselves pitted against the hippies but this is not just an ‘us against them’ sort of story. Alison writes from quite a few different perspectives, even incorporating an omniscient rainforest/nature viewpoint inserted every so often between chapters. The holistic style of this novel allows the reader to be fully informed of all sides and fully invested in the lives of all affected. I found it impossible to take sides and I also gained a lot of insight, particularly from the logging perspective, that surprised me. And that’s what I loved so much about this novel, the characterisation, the way the characters drove the narrative and stayed the course. This is a fine example of accessible and engaging literary fiction.

There was such a ‘slice of life’ aspect to this novel that enhanced my appreciation for it. Australia in the 1970s was perfectly captured and that essence of familiarity was evident all the way through. In many ways this is a quiet novel, although there were certainly spikes in drama, but it wasn’t given to moments of melodrama, it’s scenes of high action all the more impactful because of this. As I mentioned above, I am drawn to eco-literature right now and if you are finding yourself interested in reading more of it also, I can highly recommend you add Repentance to your reading list. It is, in my opinion, a brilliant read.


Thanks is extended to Scribe Publications for providing me with a copy of Repentance for review.

About the Author:

Alison Gibbs was born in Kyogle in 1963 and spent her childhood in the towns and villages of northern New South Wales. She now lives in Sydney, where she runs her own writing consultancy producing copy for United Nations agencies and the not-for-profit sector. Her short stories and essays have been published and broadcast in Australia and the United Kingdom and have received numerous short-listings and awards. Repentance is her first novel.

Published by Scribe Publications
Released 5th January 2021

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Repentance by Alison Gibbs

  1. Theresa, thank you for your generous review. I am so glad you enjoyed Repentance and am thrilled you chose that particular quote as a pull-out. I think it’s one of the most significant lines in the book but nobody else has picked up on it, tucked away as it is in the final pages. I look forward to reading future reviews on your book blog.
    Alison Gibbs

    Liked by 1 person

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