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Let the Games Begin: Birthright by Fiona Lowe

February 27, 2018

Three families. Three claims. One fortune.

Let the games begin.

Ask any family court lawyer what is the one thing that can divide loved ones and we bet that they’ll tell you it’s money. In Birthright, Fiona Lowe has had a lot of fun portraying a wealthy family who begin plotting against one another as their mother’s health deteriorates and her long-hidden inheritance must finally be claimed.

Fiona Lowe has been a midwife, a sexual health counsellor, and a family support worker; an ideal career for an author who writes novels about family and relationships.

facebookmeta (1)On Mother’s Day, the Jamiesons meet for their annual lunch, although each family member has brought along an unwelcome guest: an unexpressed grievance bubbling beneath the surface, threatening to explode. The matriarch, Margaret, is endearingly pompous, devious, and a business-woman through and through. She reigns supreme over her three children – Sarah, Cameron, and Ellie – by withholding the family’s wealth in the same way that she deprives them of the approval they secretly crave.

It doesn’t take long for things to turn ugly and the three siblings descend into bitter argument over Margaret’s inheritance, a sum none of them know for sure but are certain is very handsome. More than anyone else, Sarah is the lynch-pin keeping the family together. She is a mother of three and successful in her own right, a fact that her mother Margaret seems to ignore. Cameron, the middle child, has married a woman from lower socio-economic status, and behind closed doors is receiving a a lot of grief over the family inheritance. How can they maintain affluence if Margaret refuses to say who gets what? Finally, Ellie, the youngest of the siblings, who is seemingly carefree and until now, indifferent towards the inheritance. But now that her son Noah is growing older, she’s forced to consider their financial future.

As the three siblings try to carry on with their lives, the feud about money hangs over their heads like a growing storm cloud. For many years Ellie’s alternative lifestyle has been like a sore thumb to the rest of the family, although after a letter of eviction and impending homelessness, she starts feeling the cost of her laissez-faire mindset. Ellie’s eviction sets in motion the unravelling of any harmony among the family members. And as tempers explode, secrets escape.

Fiona Lowe’s writing is infused with many splendid literary influences. Her books entertain and immerse readers but there are also echoes of classic writers such as Evelyn Waugh, the Brontë sisters, and Isabel Allende. There are moments throughout Birthright where the prickly dilemma of Margaret’s inheritance takes a backseat, and we are compelled to think about some of the broader themes that lie at the heart of the story: how much do blood ties really matter? Are they more important than money? How much persecution can one suffer at the hands of their loved ones before they break?

Much of the drama in Birthright hinges on memory and time, so that childhood rivalries are dragged from the past to cause the shipwreck of the present. It is very beautifully written, too. Lowe’s writing is distinctly Australian with its power to evoke grit and tenderness, joy and bleakness, tragedy and comedy, all at once.

About the author

Fiona Lowe spent her early years in Papua New Guinea where, without television, reading was the only entertainment and it set up a lifelong love of books. Although she often re-wrote the endings of books in her head, it was the birth of her first child that prompted her to write her first novel. Her books are set in small country towns and feature real people facing difficult choices and explore how family ties and relationships impact on their decisions.

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