5 out of 5
A young woman named Beattie in pre-depression-era Scotland finds that the result of her passionate affair with Henry, a married man, is that she becomes pregnant and her entire life begins to fall apart. Unable to secure a divorce, she and her lover run away to Tasmania where they attempt to raise their daughter while pretending to be husband and wife. But soon their passionate affair becomes a bitter war as Henry gambles their way into deeper and deeper debt and succumbs to drinking. Beattie tries to do what is best for their daughter by running away with her, but soon Henry catches up with them. His wife has come into an inheritance and wants to take him back, and he wants Lucy—their daughter—with him. As a single mother working to let her daughter thrive, rumours begin to swirl as to Beattie’s morality and she finds herself battling more than just her ex-lover and his wife over her daughter’s love: an entire town has turned against her and everything that she holds dear.
Nearly eighty years later, Emma Blaxland-Hunter is not only the granddaughter of an Australian fashion tycoon but is a famous prima ballerina as well. That is, until she falls down the stairs after practise one evening and permanently wrecks her knee so that she will never be able to dance again. Abandoned by her boyfriend for another woman and now having an injury that dashes all of her dreams, Emma is forced to return to the one place she has been avoiding for so many years: home. While there, her grandmother’s lawyer informs her that she has been left with a huge property, Wildflower Hill, and it was her grandmother’s wish that Emma visit it. Reluctantly Emma goes, but while there she uncovers more than just empty rooms and boxes accumulating dust. She finds a secret past, pictures of a young woman—clearly her grandmother—with a child that Emma doesn’t recognize as having been her grandmother’s own. Yet, the story keeps unfolding, and after finding a cross in the garden clearly marking a man named Charlie’s grave, Emma realizes that there was more to her grandmother’s life than it may have seemed.
Family secrets and the unyielding power of love—that is what you will find in Kimberley Freeman’s breathtaking novel Wildflower Hill about two young women trying to make their ways in life throughout two very different eras, and what it means to be strong.
I can’t say it simply enough: this book was amazing. It’s been a while since I’ve found myself so attached to a story and a set of characters, but I truly craved this book anytime I was away from it. It made sleeping a nightmare, to be honest.
I usually dislike it when books flip back and forth between past and present storylines. I’m not sure why, as in some cases it does improve the depth of the plot and characters. That was definitely the case with Wildflower Hill. I loved that the story flipped back and forth between past and present, especially because Freeman seemed to understand that one thread was more interesting than the other and so devoted more time to that one. As I said, it improved the depth of the characters and story and was so, so interesting.
The writing was extremely elegant. For those who read my blog regularly, you may have noticed that a complaint I’ve had recently was that I’ve been having trouble finding adult books for young women my age (21), but the writing in this book was perfect for anyone of any age. I honestly enjoyed it so much, no matter who the character being examined was. Young or old, man or woman, I was able to relate to everybody. The writing style was so spot-on.
Something that surprised me with this book, and that told me I was totally in love with it, was that I wasn’t annoyed by the characters’ flaws. Sometimes I find that the characters’ flaws are so over-done that I find myself rolling my eyes at them. But I actually found myself getting defensive for the characters even when they were beating themselves up over their not-so-ideal traits. The characters were written in such a complete way that I forgave their flaws because they felt so human to me: nobody is perfect, and so I accepted these characters as not being so and felt for them in a way that I would a friend. There was honestly an incredible amount of intricacy to the characters; I can’t even get over it. They felt like fully formed people that I could easily walk up to on the street
I also liked the vein of truth that ran throughout this novel. The happy endings that you expect don’t always happen. You have to make your own instead, and I loved that message.
My only wish is that we’d had more: that more characters were explored, that the ending hadn’t ever come. Of course, this can’t be done in just one novel. I hope that Freeman writes more to do with this set of characters and storyline. I want to know what happened to Lucy in Scotland, what happened after the ending. I just can’t get enough!
One thing is for sure: I absolutely have a new favourite author in the adult fiction genre!
-Ember Book Reviews xxoo
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