The Saddler Boys by Fiona Palmer

Published:  23rd September 2015 (print)/11th August 2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Penguin Australia/Wavesound
Pages: 371/9 discs
Narrator: Danielle Baynes
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Rural Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Schoolteacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead.

 When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the swarm of inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew. 

 As Nat’s school comes under threat of closure, and Billy’s estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her life in Perth and the new community that needs her, Nat must risk losing it all to find out what she’s really made of – and where she truly belongs. 

A big reason why I had a hard time enjoying this was the narrator of the audiobook; she made Natalie sound like a constantly cheery childish girl which was annoying. I know she was meant to be 22, but it changed my perspective of her when she sounded so innocent and naive all the time even when she wasn’t meant to. I had read the first few chapters in a physical book and was really engaged, I think switching to audio changed my enjoyment in part.

There were good parts that I enjoyed, Palmer portrays the country lifestyle well and the characters were interesting. Some parts were predictable but I was surprised by other parts. It was a nice wholesome story that touched on some more serious topics. Even when it did that it didn’t feel as serious though, maybe that was because of how it was read too, I don’t know.

Palmer includes a few different dramas, a few I felt had to be there because it gave Natalie more justification for her decisions rather than a believable character choice. I think a different approach would have been better. But for the most part, I enjoyed the different dynamics, young single father, a child with a few special needs, interesting supporting characters. It worked well on that front.

I was surprised by the ending, I was waiting for a sudden change but Palmer followed through which was impressive. Overall it’s not the best rural story I have read, but it wasn’t too bad either. I’m almost tempted to reread it as a book just to see if I enjoy it more…almost.

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You can purchase The Saddler Boys via the following

Dymocks | Booktopia

Book Depository | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust

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The Farmer’s Wife (#2) by Rachael Treasure

Published: 1st April 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Bolinda Audio
Narrator: Miranda Nation
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Rural Romance
★  – 1 Star

She got her fairytale ending — but life had other plans …

The Deniliquin Ute Muster had always been on Rebecca’s wish list, but with the farm and babies, she’d never managed to make it. Tonight, she decided to reclaim herself.

After ten years being married to larrikin Charlie Lewis and living on her beloved property, Waters Meeting, Rebecca is confronted by a wife’s biggest fear, a mother’s worst nightmare and a farm business that’s bleeding to death.

Can Rebecca find the inner strength she once had as a young jillaroo, to save everything she cherishes? Or is life about to teach her the hardest lesson: that sometimes you simply have to let go.

I leapt into The Farmer’s Wife after reading Jillaroo and I am so sorry that I did because it ruined everything that made Jillaroo wonderful. I listened to the audio book while I was driving which was great because I think I would have thrown the book at a wall more often than turning the pages.

I was aware that Treasure changes the personality of Charlie, does a complete 180 on him, but after finishing this book it was more than a 180, it was a completely new person. It was disgusting, really, having to listen to what he does and what he says, when he is nothing like the person in book one. In the beginning I could see where Treasure was coming from, I still can in a way, but even knowing where she was coming from does little to stop the sickening feeling in my stomach as I listened. I get it, the life with Rebecca isn’t the life Charlie wanted, but as the book goes on, he goes from being a scumbag, angry and rude, to being dangerous and abusive, pretty much a psychopath. It was horrible. I understood the ten year difference, life, kids, a farm, all could take their toll, but the direction I thought Treasure would take was nothing to what she does do.

It wasn’t just Charlie that was the problem, Rebecca had issues as well. She tries to cling onto the life she had, she makes some smart decisions and does the best she can for her kids, but I wasn’t a fan of some of her other decisions. The whole thing seems to go off the rails. I felt Rebecca lost who she was; she wasn’t the fighter she once was, she gives up too easy, and every time you think she is going to fight and pull herself together she doesn’t. The strong woman I fell in love with in Jillaroo becomes this uncertain, lost girl, granted with fleeting moments of strength but other than that, she too was a different person. Ten years on and both of them are unrecognisable as the people I knew in Jillaroo.

It was disgusting at times to listen to, and it was an appalling story. Nothing seemed to fit these characters and I felt there were so many cop outs and explanations and justifications that didn’t sit right. It was such a disappointment, to not even see the same values really that they once had.

Away from characters Treasure uses the book to teach us about the benefits of holistic farming, in detail, something I didn’t actually really mind because I found it interesting, but I can see how that would be annoying, it only kind of worked into the story, more telling than showing I think. This takes over Rebecca’s storyline in a way and you start to root for her again before she lets you down once more.

I liked some parts and put up with other bits, and as I say, felt sick for a lot of it and was confused about who these characters were. I get Treasure wants to show us the Cinderella story isn’t always a dream, but could we maybe have more tension and fights instead of abusive husbands and magic crystals? If you loved Jillaroo like I did. If you loved Charlie and Rebecca together, their story, her story, then don’t read the sequel. Or if you do, be warned, yes it does show you that the Cinderella story does settle into reality, but what Treasure does is so far from I think what’s believable in terms of these established characters, it is too much at times.

If Treasure wanted conflict there was plenty to work without destroying the relationship and characters she had built up so beautifully in Jillaroo. I may just have to reread that story and pretend this one never happened.