Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published October 12th 2021
A historical drama suitable fo everyone
I've done a few book reviews and quite a few more movie reviews of recent releases over the past two years of writing for WeekendNotes. That's a lot of reading, watching and writing.
However, one constant complaint is that what I review contains bad language or scenes that are a little too graphic in many ways. Even the glorious The Dictionary Of Lost Words had some language in it that resulted in me receiving some concerned messages. And that is fair enough. There seems to be very little out there for people who do not want profanity, blasphemy or sex/violent scenes in everything.
So, imagine my surprise when I came across a book with a really good story, decent characters and non-stop action that did not have any of those things.
The Irish Girl by Roger Norris-Green (2021)
(Image supplied by the author.)
Before I hit the book, I bought this because I wanted to support a local South Australian writer. It is a self-published book (which does account for some occasionally odd formatting issues with paragraphs), and is available from Roger personally. I should also point out that while most of my reading is horror, fantasy or science fiction (and more and more comedy), I don't restrict myself. As a writer, I feel I need to make sure I read across many genres. That's resulted in me selling two Western stories and even a romance. Why do I point this out? This is a historical drama, pure and simple, not the sort of thing people are used to me reviewing.
It is about the early days of settlement on the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia, focused on a pair of recent emigrants. The research is really good (especially when it comes to times it took to travel the vast distances back then one of the best I think I've come across in that regard) and the sense of place is nicely done. It also treats the Indigenous characters with compassion, and their language is area-specific; again, this is something I do not see enough of in Australian works.
So, as you have probably already gathered, I like this book. I mean, I only review things I like but I am already praising the way it is written. This is a good, quick read. It is also a lot of fun.
So, the story. Sorry about any SPOILERS that creep through, but, really, with this sort of story, you can normally guess the ending at about the third chapter, and this is one that fits into that mould. I don't mean that as a negative you know what you're going to get, and it's the journey, not the destination, that makes these books so good to read.
So, we start in Ireland where Ciara Kelly is watching her brother being buried, leaving her not only an orphan, but with no family and nowhere to live. She goes to a Quaker House for a bowl of soup when Rafferty O'Donnell arrives to donate some vegetables. He knew Ciara's family, and agrees to take her to the workhouse on his cart. He also tells her about the Earl Grey programme which helps young women travel to the new colony of South Australia to work for the established families there.
After some time at the workhouse, Ciara is selected for the voyage to Australia, and we get some interesting scenes of how the women were treated on the voyage, resulting in one of Ciara's friends falling pregnant to the married ship's doctor. They arrive in South Australia, Ciara is offered employment by George Lindstaff, but he wants more than an employee. Ciara escapes his clutches before he is attacked by escaped convicts from the eastern states, and she then lives with some friendly Indigenous people.
Then we come to the only thing in the book that didn't feel right. Ciara and her Indigenous friend Tarnie, after some weeks with the Indigenous people, go back to the farm she had fled, where, at almost the same time Rafferty had left a note for her. It just felt way too convenient. But that's it; that's my one whinge. Anyway, Rafferty offers her a job at a shop he is establishing, the convicts who killed Lindstaff come back looking for Ciara (as the only witness to their crime), and things end exactly how you'd expect, with a little Easter Egg thrown in for those who live on the Peninsula.
That's the story. Yes, a lot happens, and it does not let up for the entire 229 pages. You rarely go more than 3 pages without something else occurring to the characters. Like I said, the journey is the biggest part of a book like this, and it is a fun ride.
Is it perfect? No. I found Ciara to be a little too perfect and Rafferty to be a little two-dimensional, but in this sort of story that is not unusual. There are also some writing/word choice issues that don't quite work for me. And that's it, really.
As I said at the start, this book is perfect for those who do feel modern works tend towards the crude too often. This is a book where none of that matters, and more importantly the book does not need it.
The old Moonta Methodist Church, Moonta Mines, South Australia
This is not Roger's first book. He has written more than 140 Westerns and 8 other books, and that experience shows. He knows what to leave out, which is something too many writers don't quite get the hang of. This means his style is easy to read and get into. I lost myself in this book and finished it too quickly. It is an enjoyable work.
Copies are available from Roger himself, and cost $20 if mailed in Australia (will cost more to be sent overseas; he will give you prices). You can email Roger at rogersbooks[at] y7mail[dot]com to order copies.