Australia and New Zealand
"To test her courage, daredevil Lillian risks her life for fame and fortune by parachuting from a hot air balloon throughout Australia and New Zealand. But in the competitive 1890s era of charlatans, showmen, and theatrical hucksters, is she brave enough to confront the truth about her past? A story of courage and ambition, and the consequences of secrets and lies."
I think the main thing I liked about this book was its unusual subject matter. Ms Clarke has based her story on real historical people, done diligent research, and brought those people back to life in the pages of her novel.
I enjoyed the brief moments where we were taken to Lillian's present day life, and it soon became clear that as she reminisced to her grandchildren she was fabricating some aspect of her story. This was a good hook to keep the reader guessing.
I'm not sure that Lillian and her sister Ruby were entirely sympathetic characters and at some points I actively disliked them, but then I remembered that sisters are wont to behave in exactly such ways towards each other and are supremely able also to forgive one another, and so the family dynamics of this story rang very true.
The characters who come and go - some honourable, some not so much - are beautifully drawn, and the life of the showmen and women who lived for their performances and often hand to mouth, was well described.
Strongest, in my view, were the scenes where Lillian found herself falling in love. The tender first touches, the hesitant approaches, were heart-warming to the extent that one could sense the shallow breathing of a nervous young person realising their heart's desire.
The reveal, when it came, was a shock, and I'm still puzzling over whether it really worked. At first I was confused, and had to stop for a moment to work it out, but I can see why it had to be done that way. When the penny dropped, I realised how cleverly the story had actually been woven through another story.
One aspect of this book which I really wish to draw attention to is the superb level of copy-editing and proofreading. This is an excellently presented book and Ms Clarke's 'team' have served her well in this regard.
The author is a natural story-teller (as is her protagonist!) and I highly recommend this well-written and very quirky novel.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Annie Whitehead