When Lucy Hunter stumbles upon her grandfather Harry’s World War Two memorabilia, she finds a faded photograph of a stunning young woman known simply as “George” and a series of heartfelt letters. They are clues about the secret years, a period of Lucy’s family history that has been kept a mystery… until now.
How did a cattleman from north Queensland find forbidden love with the Honourable Georgina Lenton of London, and persuade her to move to his isolated outback property?
As the passions of the past trickle down the years, three generations of one family pull together. Each must learn in their own way how true love can conquer the greatest challenges of all.
From the wild beauty of the Australian bush to England’s rugged south coast, this is a deeply moving story of heartbreak, heroism and homecoming by a beloved, multi-award winning author.
This is a hard book to classify, and I think the blurb barely gives you an idea of what to expect. I think the mark of a good book is if you know you’ll remember it down the track (especially so if you read hundreds of books a year!), and I know there are some aspects of this one that will stay with me. It is an emotional read. I never understand readers who claim to cry buckets of tears for every single silly little book they read, but this actually IS a book I can say has that sort of emotion in it.
The Secret Years might be Barbara Hannay’s most ambitious book, and for me, it really, really worked. It is not romance, though there are some relationships in it. Calling it women’s fiction seems disingenuous, because it doesn’t really give you an idea of the scale and scope of the story. I’m not really sure what it is, but it covers the lives of three generations of women, taking you all over Australia, through war-torn London, to Cornwall, and even to New Guinea.
This sort of work is ambitious because it is in danger of being choppy, but I think the changes between past and present were handled well, and the choice to only use the three women’s perspectives meant we weren’t lost in a sea of characters.
The research is excellent, and I think there are plenty of authors around who could learn a thing or two about researching a book from this author! There is so much to cover and yet I felt like each era and location was as real as the one before it.
Another thing that is done really well is the revealing of plot points gradually. It’s hard to know how long to draw out a mystery, and only better authors figure out how to not dump everything on the reader at the start.
I also appreciate that Hannay is one of the few authors who actually knows something about her nation’s capital. Living here, I get VERY tired of the ignorance of the average Australian! Two things: I don’t know why Lucy had to go to England to see bluebells: they’re the ACT’s state flower! And George didn’t need to wait until Queensland to see a kookaburra: we have every native bird you could think of right here!
But really, these are not complaints. I don’t really think I have any negatives with this one.
This is definitely one of my more memorable reads of the year.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.