Three generations of Stewart women share a deep connection to their family farm, but a secret from the past threatens to tear them apart.
Widowed matriarch Maggie remembers a time when the Italian prisoners of war came to work on their land, changing her heart and her home forever. Single mum Toni has been tied to the place for as long as she can recall, although farming was never her dream. And Flick is as passionate about the farm as a young girl could be, despite the limited opportunities for love.
When a letter from 1946 is unearthed in an old cottage on the property, the Sunnyvale girls find themselves on a journey deep into their own hearts and all the way across the world to Italy. Their quest to solve a mystery leads to incredible discoveries about each other, and about themselves.
A very entertaining read.
From an ARC kindly provided by TheReadingRoom and Penguin
The Sunnyvale Girls is the sixth novel by Australian author, Fiona Palmer. Felicity (Flick), Antonia (Toni) and Margaret (Maggie) Stewart live on Sunnyvale, a property in rural Western Australia. Maggie, now four years widowed, enjoys her garden and loves to cook for her family. Her daughter Toni, inclined to be prickly at times, runs their sheep and wheat farm with the able assistance of James Painter (Jimmy). Young Flick, Toniâ€™s daughter, loves being on the farm and is renovating the old abandoned homestead, a house built from hand-made bricks, with beautiful jarrah floor boards that conceal an explosive secret. Each of the girls has her own issues to deal with (a boyfriend whose fidelity is in doubt, an attraction to a younger man, a previous lover never forgotten), but an old letter from an Italian prisoner of war throws all their lives into disarray. Revelations cause anger, doubt and guilt, but eventually, curiosity wins out and some research has Toni and Flick travelling to Italy. The story switches between the contemporary (2000) and Maggieâ€™s memories of the mid-1940s. Palmerâ€™s characters are familiar and easy to love. Her descriptions are highly evocative and skilfully render the atmosphere, be it a dusty West Australian paddock or a cobble-stoned Italian village; her attachment to rural Australia is apparent in every paragraph. Palmerâ€™s plot is original, has a twist or two, and incorporates sons lost to war, Italian lovers, missing fathers, small town prejudices and strong family ties. Fans of Fiona Palmer will not be disappointed and newcomers to her work will be eager to seek out her previous books. This one has plenty of emotion, love and laughter, tears and sadness, and a wonderfully heart-warming ending. A very entertaining read.