Book Review: Wildflower by Monique Mulligan

About the Book:

1979

After being bullied at school, Jane Kelly dreads spending the summer holidays alone, friendless. So, when Acacia Miller moves in next door, Jane imagines carefree days of trading secrets and pinkie promises with a new best friend. But as their friendship grows, Acacia remains stubbornly guarded about her home life, and Jane becomes caught up in a sinister situation she doesn’t understand. When Acacia’s secret becomes one too many for Jane to carry, she must choose whether to challenge the status quo and risk losing her only friend. Or stay silent, knowing the danger it hides.

1999

An abused woman flees to a refuge and bumps into someone from her childhood. Haunted by her past but grappling with a desire to reconnect and rebuild her life, she realises there are wounds that time alone cannot heal. Can she find the courage to confront the darkest secrets of all: her own?

Published by Pilyara Press

Released March 2022

My Thoughts:

I like what Monique Mulligan has done here with this story, the way in which she has crafted a novel about domestic violence without plunging us directly into it, instead, offering the perspective of looking in from the outside. Predominantly set in 1979 to 1980, a time of vastly different attitudes, Wildflower is a story about challenging the status quo, about speaking out when something isn’t right, about standing up for women and children when they are in harms way within their own homes. I found the portrayal of life and the ideas of the day quite vividly realised; this was the sort of world I grew in up in and its familiarity was shockingly confronting. Was everybody really like that back then? Yes. They were.

Other themes, bullying and feminism, are woven into the narrative with ease, but it’s the way in which Monique challenges gendered stereotypes throughout the story that ultimately made this novel for me. In terms of the story playing out in the 1999 timeline, it is not disclosed who this woman is until the end of the novel. I had two guesses, both were wrong, and I thought the character reveal here was a clever plot turn. Generally, I am not a fan of child narrators, however, in this instance, it was done well. Wildflower put me in mind of Little Gods by Jenny Ackland. I think it was the ebb and flow of life in the Australia of forty years ago as seen through a child’s perspective that did it. There is something particularly poignant about revisiting one’s childhood through the eyes of a child narrator – provided it is done well, which it was within both books.

Whilst yes, this is a novel about domestic violence, I felt the themes were handled well throughout and I didn’t at all feel as though it was gratuitous or triggering – for which I am grateful. It’s a topic I generally avoid reading about for many reasons. I am happy to recommend this one far and wide, particularly to book clubs, it would generate a lot of interesting book chat.

Thanks to the author for the review copy.

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