© Annie Whitehead
"In 1950 Australia, Raine believes her unplanned marriage to the volatile Teddy is working out fine. They have their own place, humble though it is. Their baby thrives.
But when Teddy abandons his young family, a grieving and furious Raine faces hard choices – made harder when she discovers she’s bearing their second child.
Are the words of the telegram the real reason behind Teddy’s desertion?
Was there ever a future for them, or had his harridan mother been right all along?
And what about the faithful, devoted Alf? He’s always looked out for Raine. He’d love to do so forever.
With her baby nearly due, Raine sets out on a punishing journey to face the truth. And make the most important decision of her life."
The opening pages of this novel are beautifully observed and the predicament in which Raine finds herself is starkly described. The introduction of - most of - the main characters is handled skilfully; with no need for exposition or backstory we learn immediately that Alf is an important figure in Raine's life, and that there is 'bad history' between her and her in-laws. The mystery is: why has Teddy left?
The narrative alternates between the present (1951) and the very recent past (1949) and explores how Raine first meets Teddy and Alf (and this is where we, too, get to meet Teddy), and gradually we discover the circumstances leading up to Teddy's disappearance. At just the right moment in the story, we begin to see things from Teddy's point of view, which greatly adds to our understanding of the harsh decision he has taken.
I'd firmly made up my mind about who I felt were the 'goodies' and 'baddies' in this story, but the author cleverly throws up some surprises, not only for the reader but for some of the characters too, when they have their beliefs about what's really going on challenged.
There's a strong supporting cast: Raine's mum and sister, the in-laws, and the mix of good and bad bosses where Raine works. Ms Burman crafts exquisite sentences and the 'now' scenes, set in 1951 and written in the present tense, are exceptionally strong, with the description of the cabin in particular providing vivid detail. The book is expertly presented - the formatting is spot on, her editing team have done a fantastic job, and the cover is excellent.
I'd perhaps have liked just a touch more 'period' atmosphere and, to satisfy my curiosity, a little more detail about the distinctly different setting, 1950s Australia being 'new' to me in terms of fiction reading, but for lovers of will they, won't they romance this will be a treat to savour.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Annie Whitehead