I was provided with an advance reader copy by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Any and all opinions expressed in this review are mine alone. I received no financial incentives to review this book.
Published by Penguin Australia on September 24, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Rural Romance
Source: the publisher
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Three generations of Stewart women share a deep connection to their family farm, but a secret from the past threatens to tear them apart.
Widowed matriarch Maggie remembers a time when the Italian prisoners of war came to work on their land, changing her heart and her home forever. Single mum Toni has been tied to the place for as long as she can recall, although farming was never her dream. And Flick is as passionate about the farm as a girl could be, despite the limited opportunities for love.
When a letter from 1946 is unearthed in an old cottage on the property, the Sunnyvale girls find themselves on a journey into their own hearts and across the world to Italy. Their quest to solve a mystery leads to incredible discoveries about each other, and about themselves.
I’ve been super lucky to have Fiona stop by My Written Romance to talk about writing the local newsletter, and the old school where she goes to write it.
Over to you, Fiona!
This is my old primary school. It’s looking a bit overgrown but it hasn’t been a school since 1998 when it was closed. It now serves its purpose as the community centre. We hold our Progress meetings here, which I am secretary for, but they went from every few months to maybe twice a year.
Today I visited my old school to also write up our local newsletter called the Gumtree Gazette. I share this job with three other local ladies, while another group come later in the afternoon to print them up and post them out.
The old school is still looked after, the gardens are maintained, and it’s often used for other meetings. It used to have outside, half open toilets which we’d often be sharing with bobtails. Lucky there was always a farm boy on hand to move them on for us.
It is a two classroom school, one junior room and a senior room. At one point the junior room was used for our Toy Library and playgroup. (That hasn’t happened in a while.)
Our town has no babies, the youngest kids are eight and up and no one is looking like having any more kids unless some young people move back into the area. It is a sad fact and one that has prompted the idea for my next book The Farmer’s Son. It too will be set around a small school, just like this one.
This tiny room, squished in between both classrooms, was the Principal and Register’s office. It’s now where we go to do up our newsletter, taking just over an hour to do. The great thing about being on the Gazette roster is I can plug my next book. (All to a community of fifty to eighty.)
Thanks, Fiona! Now here are my thoughts on The Sunnyvale Girls:
Note – September 29, 2014: Well, thanks to the wonders of cold and flu meds, I originally posted this without my actual review! Clever, hey? So, here it goes.
I cannot think of a Fiona Palmer book that I have read that I haven’t absolutely adored. There is just something in her writing – her voice, the themes, I don’t know – that just always works for me. The Sunnyvale Girls is no different.
The discovery of some long-lost letters under the floorboards totally changes things for the Stewart women of Sunnyvale. I loved that the way in which each of them react to the bombshell rings so true. There’s no delaying, no instant forgiveness – I totally understood why Toni reacted the way she did, and I love that Maggie didn’t continue to keep the secret and make things worse. Flick wanted her mother to forgive, but didn’t push her or flounce off in a huff when she didn’t. Familial relationships are rarely simple, and I appreciated that they weren’t made out to be.
The Sunnyvale Girls is told from the alternating points-of-view of Maggie, Toni and Flick – with the occasional glimpse back to Maggie’s youth – and you never feel lost or out of place. These are three wonderfully strong, resilient women, who you can easily care about and look forward to hearing from throughout the course of the book.
While the relationships between these three are the main focus of the story, there are also some gorgeous romantic threads woven through it: Maggie’s never-forgotten love for Italian POW Rocco, Toni’s to-and-fro attraction to Jimmy, her right-hand man, and Flick’s discovery of romance in an unexpected place.
Outside of the wonderful story, and fabulous collection of strong women that inhabit it, I get to travel via words. Italy is one of my favourite destinations to travel to (even got engaged there!), and I loved the glimpses of Italy I got via Flick and Toni’s trip. As a side note: I, like them, drove in Italy – and holy crapmonkeys, it was an eye-opener.
I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed this book. Full to the brim with emotion, humour and realness, The Sunnyvale Girls is just….. Oh, trust me, you will just have to read it!
A big thank you to the lovely people at Penguin Australia for providing me with an advance reader copy of The Sunnyvale Girls.