Praise for The Drifter
Mrs B's Book Reviews
Anthea Hodgson makes a graceful entrance into the Australian writing scene with her first novel, a quintessential piece of Australian rural literature, titled The Drifter. Classified as a rural romance, alongside established rural fiction writers such as Rachael Johns and Fiona Palmer, The Drifter is a romance novel. I believe at its core, The Drifter is a poignant story of finding the meaning of life, death and all that in between – through the healing power of the country landscape.
Cate Christie is the central protagonist in Anthea Hodgson’s debut novel. The first thing you need to know about Cate and her male counterpart lead Henry, is that both are lost spirits, floating through life, with no clear set goals. Cate was once a free spirited young woman without a care in the world, when a tragic accident ripped her world apart. Since this tragedy, she has been unable to function in her old life based in the city. Consequently, Cate decides to make the move to her great aunt’s farm, in the wheatbelt region of Western Australia. Cate hopes to find a kind of solace in the country. She ends up meeting a travelling swagman or ‘drifter’ called Henry, who is staying on her great Ida’s farm, in exchange for help around the property. Henry is a man who carries the heavy burden of a secret in his past, a secret big enough to take him far away from his former life. When Ida takes a turn for the worst health wise, Cate and Henry must band together to protect Ida. Along the way, the two find their wounds begin to heal, love blossoms and they embrace the true meaning of community.
Life doesn’t get much sweeter when you discover a new author from your favourite genre and a local one at that. It was a true blessing to be able to discover the writing of new west Aussie author Anthea Hodgson, through an opportunity to read and review her first book.
When you read many books from a genre you enjoy, although the sense of predictability these novels bring to the floor is comforting, it is always nice when one goes off in a different direction. I saw many of the elements I have come to love about rural fiction novels in The Drifter – but I also saw something original in this book. The Drifter reads more like a contemporary work of fiction than a simple rural romance. It is a book that explores intricate feelings concerning death, loss and most importantly, life itself. It is deep, meaningful and highly personable novel, made possible by Hodgson’s fine writing style. Hodgson manages to offer a delicate balance between refined prose and authentic colloquialism, through her character’s dialogue. I completely engaged with Hodgson’s writing, particularly the language between the characters, which managed to capture the true essence of her characters down to a tea.
The Drifter is essentially Cate and Henry’s personal journey but it also the story of the endearing great aunt Ida. Ida is well formed character wise, at many times I felt like I was standing next to her as Hodgson’s character building was so strong. Ida was a character I will not forget in a hurry, I just loved her musings on life, loss and love. The other supporting characters – even the dog, all play a significant part in The Drifter. The sense of community is high in this novel and I thought the depiction of the small country town in which The Drifter was set was captured perfectly. I also enjoyed the sense of familiarity that came with this book setting wise, particularly in the areas of the novel where the main character Cate is based in the city, it made my connection to the book even stronger.
Readers will find both Cate and Henry’s back stories intriguing and for me, this was the driving force of the novel. I thought the flashbacks filtered through at various points in the novel, alluding to Cate’s current state of mind, worked well. Piecing together the details of Cate’s tragedy and why Henry is now a drifter was the central purpose for turning the pages of this novel. The romance is also a big drawcard in The Drifter, as it offers the reader a great contrast between sultry and heartfelt love. When I reached the conclusion of The Drifter I was saddened to reach the end of my journey with Cate, Henry, Ida and co but the conclusion though sad in places, came with an uplifting close. The subtle messages on life that can be taken away from this novel is what set it apart from many I have read from the same genre.
The Drifter is a rousing work of contemporary Australian rural fiction, focussing on the elements of our existence that are of great meaning to us – life, loss and love. Anthea Hodgson has certainly made a grand entrance in the field of rural fiction with her first novel. I am already eagerly awaiting her next novel.
Oh My God, I absolutely loved this book. I could not put it down, I was so drawn into the story and fell in love with all the main characters. A beautifully woven story which absolutely broke my heart and then mended it in the most bittersweet way. I cannot wait to see what this author comes up with next, I will be eagerly awaiting her next book (Reader Review 5 stars )
Sam Still Reading
In brief: Cate has never been known to stick at anything, but after a tragic accident she’s staying put in the bush. What she doesn’t know is that in the middle of nowhere, she will start to feel like she belongs…
The good: Sensitively written, it’s an engaging story.
The not-so-good: Henry is reluctant to give up his secrets.
Why I chose it: From the author and Penguin Books, thank you.
Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)
Setting: Mainly country Western Australia
My rating: 9.5 out of 10
The Drifter is a book that sneaks up on you, until you’re completely captivated by its charm and melancholy. I’m a fan of Australian rural fiction, yet The Drifter is a unique fit as it deals with loss, secrets, life, death and grief. Despite the heavy subject matter, it’s an ultimately uplifting story.
The book begins as Cate arrives at her great aunt’s farm. Cate’s always been a drifter, darting from job to job with no real purpose but after a devastating accident she’s forced to reassess her life. Life in Perth is not what it used to be, so Cate decides to help Great Aunt Ida in the middle of nowhere. It’s not what the party girl expected, with no mobile phone reception and Ida’s thorough job of hoarding decades’ worth of items. Cate is willing to have a go though, and Ida is more than happy to accept her. Ida is a gentle soul with a great deal of wisdom. In her own quiet ways, she integrates Cate into the small community, increasing her self-worth. She doesn’t question or judge, but lets Cate grieve and heal in her own time.
One thing that Cate does find a bit odd is the way Ida insists that there’s the ghost of her late husband doing jobs on the farm. After a little detective work, Cate discovers ‘Henry’, living in an old shack. Ida is delighted that her ghost has a name (and a nice body), but Cate is much more wary around Henry. Swaggies (swagmen) aren’t really a modern thing in Australia, so what has Henry got to hide? A drifter like him must have some secrets too…
Little by little, both Cate and Henry’s reasoning for hiding and secrets come to the fore. However, Hodgson still leaves a few key points to the very end, so the reader is rather surprised at the outcome! But overall, the book has a few overarching themes: life and death, redemption and facing your fears. The three main characters (Cate, Henry and Ida) all tackle these in their own way with different results. While they do this, they support each other’s journey. It was pleasing to read about the support offered to Cate through the small rural community, just by being Ida’s grand-niece. She was accepted and later supported by them when her past came to the country. The stark contrast between Ida and Cate’s parents’ treatment of her was uncomfortable to read at times. While Ida gives unconditional love, Cate’s parents are boxed in by societal constraints and a mulish belief that their way is the only right way. Offering Henry and Ida as a foil to that lets the reader know that there isn’t one correct track in life, that you can still ‘make it’ no matter how circuitous your road is.
Overall, the writing comes across as gentle, but Hodgson has a firm grip on the story. Underneath the multilayered characters lies a strong plot that guides the reader through Cate, Henry and Ida’s journeys. It’s sweet, sad but most of all hopeful. I really look forward to reading more of Anthea Hodgson’s work after this confident debut novel.
I really wish I could give this book more starts. Well written, well paced, brilliant characters and such a wonderful story. This book was really hard to put down, I loved the main Character Cate right from the start, her journey of redemption made me cry. She had such depth and an honesty about her that you knew that she really was sorry for what had occurred. Henry was someone who we might already know, and he was the perfect other side of the coin for Cate. I loved Ida and as I live in a small country town I feel that Anthea got this spot on. Cate's, Henry's and Ida's journeys provided me with one of the best reads I have had all year, and would be for this genre in my top 3. Bloody fantastic and \I can't wait to see what else this author writes. (Reader review 5 stars)
Book Muster Down Under
Cate Christie can barely remember a time when she wasn’t a disappointment to her parents. Known as a party girl with no ambition and recently stricken with grief after her best friend, Brigit, died in a car accident, Cate is left feeling bereft and, in a hopeless effort to try and outrun the pain, goes to stay with her aging Great-Aunt Ida who is in desperate need of assistance around her large remote property.
It is here that she meets a drifter whose name may or may not be Henry. Unbeknownst to Aunt Ida, Henry has been staying in one of the dilapidated sheds on the property but when Cate brings it to her attention, Ida is more than happy for him to stay and help out on the farm - and, so is Mac, Ida’s dog who has taken quite a shine to him.
Between sorting through Ida’s house which has become a hoarder’s paradise, odd jobs around the farm, helping Ida with her community obligations and trying to come to terms with the issues plaguing her, Cate forms a bond with Ida as time spent at the farm and in the little town begins to offer answers to her most troubling questions, pushing her to re-examine her own thoughts on life, death and everything in between.
I’ve been a fan of rural Australian fiction for some time now and one of the reasons is because the authors who pen these novels are so diverse in what they have to bring to their stories – Anthea Hodgson is no different.
Her main characters are unfalteringly real and are supported by a host of colourful secondary characters who drive the novel. Ida, in particular, is a hopelessly endearing character as is Mac, the dog. Henry, too, is flawed and the additional layers of intrigue relating to his reasons for drifting add both depth and complexity to the plot.
Anthea’s love for the country, landscape and community permeates the novel while the many snort-out-loud moments and stomach-clenching tenderness balance out the tragedy and loss that surrounds these characters.
The charm and heart of this novel is Cate’s great-aunt Ida who gives her something to look forward to but it’s the mental anguish that we see Cate going through and the mystery surrounding Henry’s presence that drive the story forward.
Told with emotional tenderness and filled with our trademark Aussie humour, wit and charm, Anthea’s writing is wholly readable, totally absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable, making The Drifter an engaging and uplifting read that captures the rural life and communities through the eyes of someone who has lived it.
With an intriguing plot and a great mixture of sexy and heartfelt romance, The Drifter heralds the arrival of a strong and fresh new voice in Australian rural literature. If you enjoy books by Karly Lane, you’ll definitely need to pick this one up!
I wish to thank the publisher, Penguin Australia, for providing me with a hard copy for review.