Book Review: Blue Hour by Sarah Schmidt

About the Book:

1936: At nineteen, Kitty was ready to leave behind the stifling control of her parents and all those constantly telling her how to live her life. Work at the Wintonvale Repatriation Hospital was her escape and a chance to be someone else.

Then she met soldier George Turner – and she heard her mother’s voice in her ear, warning of danger, of being that girl. Kitty told herself if she ever had her own daughter she’d never control her. She’d make sure her voice never left a mark behind.

1973: Growing up, Eleanor’s home was strained by sorrow and the echoes of war that silenced her parents. And always her mother, Kitty’s, bitterness, twisting and poisoning everything she touched. She thought she knew what made her parents this way … but Eleanor would never know all her mother’s secrets.

The demands of marriage, motherhood and looking after her daughter while her husband, Leon, is in Vietnam lay claim to Eleanor’s days. Nature, embracing curiosity and not being like her mother are Eleanor’s solace. But they are not enough when Leon’s darkness overwhelms. Both he and her mother leave their mark and use her child for their own ends. Afraid, unsure and alone, Eleanor will be driven to erase her mother’s voice in her head. But the question remains: can she bear the burden of her own secrets?

Vivid, deeply affecting and confronting, Blue Hour explores the beauty and violence in the world. Powerfully magnifying the fractures between a mother and a daughter, it reveals the brutal cost when we allow grief and trauma to reach down generations.

Published by Hachette Australia

Released June 2022

My Thoughts:

Wow. This novel left me speechless with its quiet power to unsettle and ignite reflection. It’s like a combined case study within the one family of the effects of PTSD, grief, inter-generational trauma, domestic violence, and depression. Loaded? Yes. Too much? Perhaps for some. There are certainly a wealth of triggers within this novel. However, I found it compelling, confronting, unsettling, thought provoking, and utterly heart-breaking. Schmidt is an incredible writer, just sensational. I remember feeling the same after reading her debut, See What I Have Done. She just has this immersive way of writing where all of your senses are tapped into. You can smell, taste, hear and feel so much, all from her words and the way in which she strings them together.

‘To see her mother like this: this woman who was incapable of respecting boundaries, incapable of holding back primal wants. When Eleanor had been vulnerable with Kitty, told her that she was struggling to find her footing as a new mother, that she was scared of not being enough for Amy, scared of being too much, that she wasn’t happy in her relationship with Leon, that she fantasised about him never coming home from war, that she wanted something bigger than just being a mother, that she was sorry that she couldn’t be more for her and George, that she wished Badger was around, that she wished, she wished, she wished…’

One thing that struck me as I was reading this novel: that there would have been a whole generation of women born to fathers who were suffering with PTSD from the second world war, who were the right age to marry men who would have then fought in Vietnam, bringing their own trauma home from that war. Until reading this novel and being inside Eleanor’s skin for the duration, I had never given that a single thought. A multi-pronged intergenerational trauma.

This one is recommended for fans of literary fiction who also are not triggered by stories heavy with themes of grief and mental illness. The ending was something I never saw coming, a turn in the story that was both shocking and brilliantly executed. Such a remarkable novel.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Blue Hour by Sarah Schmidt

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