Book Review: Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer
Why is there not more of a buzz about this book? Why is Anna Romer not being lauded as the Next Big Thing by the Australian writing community? Because even though this is Romer’s third book, I can’t say I was familiar with her name and I readily admit to choosing this book because of the pretty cover. What a surprisingly enjoyable read Beyond the Orchard turned out to be, however, and I plan on seeking out Romer’s other two novels.
Leaving her fiance behind in London our heroine, Lucy, returns to her home in Australia. She plans on visiting her grandfather, Edwin, at Bitterwood, his home which was once a guest house on the Great Ocean Road. Unfortunately he passes away before she can, meaning that all her questions about the past and her childhood memories remain locked away in Edwin’s creepy icehouse.
Lucy needs to learn Bitterwood’s secrets still though, to find closure over her mother’s death at the very least. The book’s mysteries (there are more than one) are slowly revealed to the reader as Lucy unravels their various threads.
Romer’s atmospheric way of writing made Beyond the Orchard feel almost like a gothic thriller at times. The book is written mostly in Lucy’s first point of view, but it does swap to third person scenes in the past featuring Lucy’s various family members.
Lucy’s time setting is 1993, meaning there is the opportunity for her grandfather’s story to be set during and just after WW2, and her mother’s in the 70s.
The Great Ocean Road’s rugged shoreline and treacherous seas are utilised effectively along with historical settings such as the war and the gold rush. There is also some other interesting details in the book which were unique and obviously well researched, such as breeding silkworms.
There’s an engaging romantic subplot included. Romer writes the UST between Lucy and her friend’s father, Morgan, beautifully. Lucy’s forbidden passion for the older man adds to her heartbreak and I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. I thought there was just the right balance between the mystery and the romance too.
If I had to write a negative, it would probably be about the parallel fairytale supposedly written by Lucy’s father. It was a little contrived for my liking and really, in the end, had little to do with the big reveals. I found myself skimming it on occasion.
It’s a minor gripe though, and I highly recommend this book.
5 out of 5