“I am clearing out my heart” // Review of “Paper Daisies” by Kim Kelly #aww2016

Title: Paper Daisies
Author: Kim Kelly
Genre: Historical fiction
Audio book narrator: Rebecca McCauley, Johnny Carr
Date Read: 24/07/2016 – 29/07/2016
Rating: ★★★


paperdaisiescoverThis was an enjoyable book, set in the Australian bush at a time when Australia was just becoming a nation, but I felt it could have been  half the length. There was a lot of meandering and repetition, but it did (eventually) work its way towards a satisfying conclusion.

It’s 1901 and Berylda Jones is finishing up her first year at Sydney University, and dreading travelling back to Bathurst, to where she and her sister live with their abusive uncle. Meanwhile, botanist Ben Willberry’s mother has just died, and to honour her final request, he is travelling to western New South Wales to track down a flower she remembered from her youth. They meet by chance and form a strong connection, but can Ben stop Berylda from crossing a point of no return?

The story unfolds in chapters that alternate between Ben and Berylda’s points-of-view. Berylda is not the most likable of characters, but she has reason to be hardened the way she is, and to be reluctant to let anyone into her confidence. There were times when I rolled my eyes a bit because she didn’t entirely think through her actions, but I did sympathise with her and her plight the majority of the time. Ben was my favourite, he was so derpy and awkward, but a total sweetheart all the while. It is love at first sight when he meets Berylda, and from then on he knows he will do whatever he has to, to get her out of her awful life situation.

As I said earlier, the story meanders on quite a bit. The majority of the story only takes place over about three or four days, but the book is quite long, and a lot of time is spent in the characters’ heads over this time. I don’t know how many times I listened to Berylda think about what she was going to do to her uncle for everything he had done to her and her sister, Greta, or how many times Ben waxed lyrical about Berylda’s lovely eyes. I would say it probably picked up in the final third, as this is when most of the action takes place.

I don’t know that I would recommend the audio book, but I have a feeling this would be a quicker read in print form. As I said, I did ultimately enjoy the story, but I think the writing might be more effective when one is reading than listening.

(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016. Click here for more information).

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