Do you need a change of landscape? Salt Creek is for you. It is set in 19th century England and mostly South Australia, in a rough area baked by the sun, where not much grows and even sheep have a hard time.
The book opens in Chichester in 1874. Hester remembers her time with her family in Australia. After an easy and very social life in Adelaide, they had to move to the poor area of the Coorong, because of her father’s too ambitious and badly thought plans, as well as his pride, not allowing him to rely on the financial help of his in-laws.
There, the large family lived in a small and poor house, far from everyone, except some Native groups of Ngarrindjeri.
Throughout the different family members, we get an interesting sample of the attitude of the “civilized” white people towards the Natives.
The Finch father is less obsessed by religion, and a much more complex figure. He insists on education, including for the girls. He wants to be kind towards the Natives, but at the same time plans to use their help and mostly, civilize them and show them how to manage the land.
The mother mostly fears them. She also never accepts having lost her social standing, and can’t find ways of escaping isolation.
The eldest sons exude pure contempt and violence. They want to get the most out of the situation, ignoring moral values.
As for the youngest children, they show real openness, including fascination for their natural surroundings. Their kindness leads to respect, acceptance of the Other, friendship, and ultimately, love.
All along, I kept thinking of The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. Except it is set in Australia. But it presents common themes and the same high quality of writing.
The descriptions of the English and Australian landscapes are incredibly beautiful.
The author, basing herself on stories heard in her own family about some ancestors, really managed to recreate a special and very rich atmosphere, including one of dread constantly looming.
At the same time, under all the hardships, you feel the painful beauty of the place and the feeling of homesickness when Hester has to leave it.
It is a powerful “lament for that lost world” (p.448), and as such, quite sad.
VERDICT: Powerful lament over a beautiful and harsh area in South Australia, and a world destroyed by blind and egocentric views of supposedly civilized people.
Author: Lucy Treloar
US publication: 9/12/2017
by Gallic Books/Aardvark Bureau
exists also as ebook
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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book free of charge from the publisher.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.