On Jacqui's Bookshelf ...

Just started listing to (on Audio CD) ... Maralinga by Judy Nunn
Synopsis: During the darkest days of the Cold War, in the remote wilderness of a South Australian desert, the future of an infant nation is being decided . . . without its people's knowledge.

A British airbase in the middle of nowhere; an atomic weapons testing ground; an army of raw youth led by powerful, ambitious men - a cocktail for disaster. Such is Maralinga in the spring of 1956.

Maralinga is a story of British Lieutenant Daniel Gardiner, who accepts a twelve-month posting to the wilds of South Australia on a promise of rapid promotion; Harold Dartleigh, Deputy Director of MI-6 and his undercover operative Gideon Melbray; Australian Army Colonel Nick Stratton and the enigmatic Petraeus Mitchell, bushman and anthropologist. They all find themselves in a violent and unforgiving landscape, infected with the unique madness and excitement that only nuclear testing creates.

Maralinga is also a story of love; a love so strong that it draws the adventurous young English journalist Elizabeth Hoffmann halfway around the world in search of the truth. And Maralinga is a story of heartbreak; heartbreak brought to the innocent First Australians who had walked their land unhindered for 40,000 years.

Maralinga . . . a desolate place where history demands an emerging nation choose between hell and reason.

Just finished listing to (on Audio CD) ... Pearl in a Cage by Joy Dettman
Synopsis: On a balmy midsummer's evening in 1923, a young woman – foreign, dishevelled and heavily pregnant – is found unconscious just off the railway tracks in the tiny logging community of Woody Creek. The town midwife, Gertrude Foote, is roused from her bed when the woman is brought to her door. Try as she might, Gertrude is unable to save her, but the baby lives.

When no relatives come forth to claim the infant, Gertrude's daughter Amber – who has recently lost a son in childbirth – and her husband Norman take the child in. In the ensuing weeks, Norman becomes convinced that God has sent the baby to their door, and in an act of reckless compassion and lonely desperation, he names the baby Jennifer and registers her in place of his son.

Loved by some but scorned by more, including her stepmother and sister, Jenny survives her childhood and grows into an exquisite and talented young woman. But who were her parents?

Jacqui's Review: I am thoroughly enjoying the good old fashioned Aussie epics at the moment.  Much in the same vein as the Thorn Birds and the very recent movie by Baz Luhrmann, Australia, Pearl in a Cage explores Australian rural life in the early twenties through the eyes of a Train Station Master, Norman, and his family.  It is a rather dark novel however, that narrates some of the more cruel aspects of life including child abuse, racism and murder which can be rather confronting at times.  3 out of 5.

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