The chance discovery of an antique wedding dress weaves together the fascinating stories of three women from different eras: Sophie, in hiding from a troubled past; Belle, who must lose everything to learn what really matters; and Martha, forced to give up those she loves in order to avoid exposure.
It’s 1931 and Belle Bartholomew has arrived in rural Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance – a run-down grand hotel formerly owned by Martha Ambrose. Determined to solve the mystery of her birth and the reason why she was bequeathed the hotel Belle runs into difficulties with the townsfolk and their desire to keep their secrets safe.
Sixty years later Sophie Matheson is on a quest to find Belle and her family after discovering the wedding dress. The Sweet Wattle Creek Centenary brings more challenges when her past catches up and she must fight for all that matters to her. Who were Belle and Martha and what links their lives together?
An antique wedding dress, unearthed after decades of being buried, ignites the story of Sweet Wattle Creek. Written by Kaye Dobbie, an Australian author, it is a novel that beautifully ties together the lives of three women, through one affective dress.
In the present day, the small town of Sweet Wattle Creek is undergoing preparations for their centenary celebration. Sophie is new to the town, working as a journalist at the local newspaper. She is the one who discovers the stunning antique wedding dress, donated for the centenary celebrations. The dress soon gets under Sophie’s skin, as she tries to find out its origins and ownership. Her investigations eventually lead her to Belle, a young woman who was once connected to the dress and the town of Sweet Wattle Creek in 1931. Belle is linked to Sweet Wattle Creek through the mysterious Martha Ambrose, a woman who bequeaths Belle a hotel establishment. All three women are bound together in some form or another to the tiny town of Sweet Wattle Creek and the wedding dress.
I loved this gentle Australian story, which is my second helping of Kaye Dobbie, an author I was introduced to through a previous novel, Colours of Gold. In general, I would describe Sweet Wattle Creek as having a light touch. However, it does deal with some important themes, such as small town rural life, war, the great depression, women’s rights, love, relationships, domestic violence and national identity. Sweet Wattle Creek offers a great blend of genres, from Australian small town fiction, crossed with historical fiction and it also contains some elements of suspense/mystery. The romance side is fairly understated in Sweet Wattle Creek, it is more a story about the agonising decisions the women in this novel make in relation to love. Dobbie makes the reader see these are women who face much adversity in their differing situations, despite the bridge of time. This allows the reader to easily sympathise with the characters in Sweet Wattle Creek. I admired the qualities of each of the characters based in both the present and the past in Sweet Wattle Creek. What I took away most from this story was the historical thread, which gave me significant insight into the struggles faced by Australia’s small towns. It is a book that worked to highlight the displacement felt by men returning from the First World War and the rise of travellers entering small towns in Australia. It definitely made Sweet Wattle Creek an enlightening read.
Sweet Wattle Creek was a pleasing novel, which held my attention from start to finish. I really enjoyed the connection between the present to the past, through the use of a wedding gown which was linked to the female protagonists. Sweet Wattle Creek is an engaging novel, from an author I am more than happy to recommend.