Challenging Chook-Lit

sunburnt countryBook Review:  The Sunburnt Country by Fiona Palmer

I received this book via a Goodreads comp. For you unaware, the spirit of those competitions is to read and review the books. This was back in June, 2013. I started the book several times and found it very difficult to get into, but on about the 10th attempt, I determinedly finished it this week. Unfortunately, this gives you some indication of how I will be rating this rural romance. (I much prefer the ‘chook-lit’ tag.)

The first issue I had, I guess, is the setting. I’m still to be won over completely with the genre. I don’t know if this is because I’ve lived in rural locations myself and the Utopian way they are portrayed in chook-lit sometimes sets my teeth on edge. Even ‘seachange’ books tend to have a nasty small-minded busybody or something. This book makes sure that all the goodies are in the bush/country town/outback and the baddies are in the city.

If I ignore the perfection of the small country town as expected poetic licence of the genre, the next obstacle to get over was the hero and heroine’s love of cars. If you like cars and touring car racing, you’ll probably be in heaven. Unfortunately, my eyes glazed over.

Some people love talking engines and whatnot though, so I can’t disrespect the book over it, therefore I’ll move on to complaining about the conflict.

The romantic pairing couldn’t be together because he was a temporary bank manager who usually lived in the city, and she could never leave her hometown or be with someone who worked for a bank. Newsflash, it’s 2015 (or 2012 as it was set). People do not blame the temporary bank manager for all their financial woes, and long distance romances where the couple eventually negotiate and compromise on where to settle are the norm. I’m sorry, I just didn’t find this a serious enough conflict to carry the length of the book.

Jonny, our heroine, is quite nice and capable, but I found the leading man (Dan) to be a little weak. I don’t expect every hero to be on a white stallion saving the damsel in distress, but… Something other than him sorting out Jonny’s friend Ryan’s invoices would have been nice.

And in mentioning Ryan… His character annoyed me until I just wanted to punch him. He added nothing to the plot or characterisation of our leading couple. He was completely unnecessary. Yet he was used so many times, I wouldn’t have known I was supposed to be rooting for Dan if the book hadn’t been written from Dan’s point of view in alternate chapters, thus giving me the hint!

In fact, there were too many supporting characters overall. Palmer should have saved them all for another book. I didn’t really give two hoots about ol’ Coot, Jean at the bank, or Dennis at the pub, to be honest.

Again, I would have probably tolerated all this if not for the lack of plot… Nothing happened. Actually, I lie, lots happened, but none of it moved the plot along. Random car accidents, and farm accidents, and suicide attempts, and fancy dress parties, and… It was like a soap opera where we moved from drama to drama but the characters were still in the same place after each incident.

The writing is very Australian. Usually something I like, but in this case it couldn’t save it.

Yes, I feel terrible about the bad review, but I know Fiona Palmer can do better (Sunnyvale Girls is so superior) and 2 out of 5 is all I can justify for this one.

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