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Bush Oranges


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This first novel will be one of the best books of this Christmas season. The author, who grew up in Northern Queensland, has written a wonderfully rich and authentic story of life in Townsville, Magnetic Island and Tully from the 1920s to the present, told through episodes written by three daughters and two grandaughters of Annie (Nana) Minton, whose family left Ireland in the famine and settled in Northern Queensland. Kate, the youngest grandaughter, has been summoned home from Sydney, where she lives with her partner Dan, to stay with her mother Nell on Magnetic Island because her mother's sister is dying in a nursing home. The first episode of Kate's narrative sets the atmosphere with her arrival home in the cyclone season, and it is followed by her mother's story, then those of her aunts Phyll and Iris, and, later, Iris' daughter. Personality and age are captured in fine descriptive passages and anecdotes of growing up in a devout Catholic family where social life is provided by the Catholic Youth Organisation and moral and family values of respectability and loyalty are unquestioned. This is all set against the background firstly of the Depression and then of World War II when there was a huge influx of troops into Townsville. She portrays a world in which women, almost entirely without men, are forced to take up unfamiliar challenges. It is a story about the secrets held by one generation and the silence that can come between mothers and daughters. A beautifully understated book sure to have wide appeal. Rosemary Moir is co-owner of Moirs Bookshop. C. 2001 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

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