Stunning Australian Historical: Read Our Review of The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal

Stunning Australian Historical: Read Our Review of The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal

A stunning evocation of Australian life through the war to the 1950s, this novel is intimate and sweeping, immediate and dreamlike – a magical rendering of darkness and joy, and the beauty inherent in difference.

Connie Starr was always a difficult child. Her mother knew as soon as Connie entered the world that day in Ballarat in 1934 and opened her lungs to scream – there was more chaos in the world than before, and it wouldn’t leave until Connie did. From the safety of a branch high in her lemon tree where she speaks to angels, she sees the world for what it is – a swirling mass of beauty and darkness, of trauma and family, of love and war and truth and lies – lies that might just undo her and drive her to a desperate act.

This ambitious, complex and insightful novel intertwines numerous stories of lives from before World War II and beyond, recreating with intimacy and breadth a world that is now lost to us. This book is a brightly coloured patchwork quilt of everything from shoes to polio, lemon trees to rivers, death to life that melds into one beautiful, luminous work of art.

Robbi Neal is an author and painter who has spent most of her life living in regional Victoria where she currently calls Ballarat home. Her latest novel, The Secret World of Connie Starr, is set in Ballarat – in fact, she lives mere blocks away from many locations in the novel. Neal’s own grandfather was a preacher in the local church, the same church where Connie Starr’s father is a pastor in this novel. Neal’s connection to these settings and community lends this book a wonderful authenticity.

Connie Starr takes you into the heart of the Ballarat community from the moment Connie is born, exploring those difficult years during and after the war. The emotions and pain prevalent in this time are vividly portrayed. Through Connie’s young, inquisitive eyes, readers gain insight into a period of history which changed the lives of many. Spanning nearly twenty years and focusing on a wide cast of characters from Connie’s family and community, the novel flows seamlessly through each captivating chapter. From a young man at the bombing of Darwin to another suffering from polio, Neal intertwines these moving stories using their connection to Connie. The index showing the members of each family in “Connie’s World” comes in handy.

Lovers of historical fiction, especially of the ever-impressive homegrown variety, will adore Neal’s novel which is making its mark. This is the kind of historical fiction that sweeps you up and doesn’t let go. A read worth savouring.

Buy a copy of The Secret World of Connie Starr here.

Reviews

Intimate and Sweeping: Read an Extract from The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal

Review | Extract

9 June 2022

Intimate and Sweeping: Read an Extract from The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal

    Better Reading Preview: The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal

    Review | Preview

    19 April 2022

    Better Reading Preview: The Secret World of Connie Starr by Robbi Neal

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        Publisher details

        The Secret World of Connie Starr
        Author
        Robbi Neal
        Publisher
        HQ Fiction
        Genre
        Fiction
        Released
        01 June, 2022
        ISBN
        9781867207825

        Synopsis

        A stunning evocation of Australian life through the war to the 1950s, this novel is intimate and sweeping, immediate and dreamlike - a magical rendering of darkness and joy, and the beauty inherent in difference. For readers of Sarah Winman's Still Life, Trent Dalton's All Our Shimmering Skies and Rosalie Ham's The Dressmaker.

        Connie Starr was always a difficult child. Her mother knew as soon as Connie entered the world that day in Ballarat in 1934 and opened her lungs to scream, there was more chaos in the world than before and it wouldn't leave until Connie did. From the safety of a branch high in her lemon tree where she speaks to angels, she sees the world for what it is - a swirling mass of beauty and darkness, of trauma and family, of love and war and truth and lies - lies that might just undo her and drive her to a desperate act.

        This ambitious, complex and insightful novel intertwines numerous stories of lives from before World War II and beyond, recreating with intimacy and breadth a world that is now lost to us. This book is a brightly coloured patchwork quilt of everything from shoes to polio, lemon trees to rivers, death to life that melds into one beautiful, luminous work of art.

        'The Secret World of Connie Starr will set the literary firmament ablaze. This brilliant, quintessentially Australian ode to difference, transcends time and place - it's an achingly lovely tale that shines long after the last page.' Karen Brooks, author of The Good Wife of Bath

        Robbi Neal
        About the author

        Robbi Neal

        Robbi Neal's first book SUNDAY BEST, a memoir was developed as part of the HarperCollins/Varuna awards program and published by HarperCollins in 2004. AFTER BEFORE TIME, which told stories of indigenous life in a remote community, was published in 2016. THE ART OF PRESERVING LOVE, a story that spanned 25 years from 1905 to 1930 was published in 2018 under the pen name Ada Langton. Robbi also paints and is currently working towards an exhibition scheduled for 2022 at Redot Fine Art Gallery, Singapore. She is a mama of five wonderful humans (you're welcome world). She has lived in country Victoria, Australia, for most of her life and lives only a few of blocks from where her novel THE SECRET WORLD OF CONNIE STARR (2022) is set. She loves to walk down Dawson Street past the church her grandfather preached in, the same church with the same columns that appear in in this book. When Robbi isn't writing, she is painting, or reading or hanging out with her family and friends, all of whom she adores. She loves procrasti-cooking, especially when thinking about the next chapter in her writing. She also loves cheese, any cheese, all cheese and lemon gin or dirty martinis, the blues, and more cheese.

        Books by Robbi Neal

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