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Homecoming Not All Sweet: Review of Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair

June 12, 2018

It’s 1948, and Rosie Stanton is on a bumpy bus-ride back to Piri River, the tiny sugarcane-growing town in northern Queensland where she was born and raised. She isn’t eager to return – her hometown reminds her too much of the brothers she lost in the war – but after being forced out of her secretarial job in Brisbane for speaking up about her boss’s inappropriate advances, Rosie doesn’t have anywhere else to go.

Settling back into life in Piri River is a challenge. Rosie’s mother has taken to drink to numb the pain of losing her sons, and although Rosie is eager to help her ageing father run the family farm, he’s holding stubbornly onto archaic ideas about women.

But it’s not all bad. There are old friends to catch up with, new babies to meet – and then there’s Tomas Conti, the handsome, olive-skinned Italian who caught Rosie’s eye on her first day home. A recent migrant from Palermo by way of Rome, Tomas has come to Piri River to work on his family’s sugarcane farm, and he and Rosie soon strike up a firm friendship. Rosie teaches Tomas about life in Australia, and as the pair’s relationship deepens, Tomas is there for Rosie when her father falls ill and reluctantly allows his daughter to step into his shoes.

Running the sprawling family farm presents a whole new set of complications for Rosie, and life gets even more confusing when a mysterious stranger arrives in Piri River and claims Tomas is not who he says he is. When Rosie uncovers a monumental, long-buried secret about her family’s past, her world seems on the verge of collapsing completely.

A beautifully written love story between two well-crafted and compelling characters, Burning Fields is also a powerful tale about belonging. From our first meeting with her, our plucky heroine, Rosie, yearns for her true place, and as we grow to know and love her, we begin to share her hopes. It’s even easier to root for Rosie when we witness her take a stand against harassment and prejudice in her rural hometown, and when we watch her band together with other local women all committed to helping each other up-skill and find jobs outside the home. Author Alli Sinclair has created a gutsy, fearless character in Rosie, and it’s a pleasure to follow her story.

Burning Fields is set in a particularly interesting time and place. The years after WWII saw significant growth and change for families and communities the world over, and Alli Sinclair’s description of the ups and downs encountered by the Conti family as they settle into their new hometown of Piri River, paints a nuanced and compelling picture of the experience of post-war migrants in rural Australia.

Burning Fields is an excellent, engrossing read.

 

About the author

Born and raised in Australia, Alli Sinclair has a passion for adventure that has taken her around the globe. She’s lived in Argentina and Canada, climbed mountains in Nepal and Peru, and worked as a tour guide in South and Central America. Drawing on her travel experiences, she’s written best-selling novels based in Spain and Paris, and with Burning Fields she returns to her homeland, which has always been close to her heart. When she’s not writing, Alli regularly presents workshops for Writers Victoria, Queensland Writers Centre and private writing groups, and also provides mentoring and manuscript assessment for new writers. She lives in Geelong.

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