2017 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · small town

Book Review: Blueberry by Glenna Thomson

Title: Blueberry

Author: Glenna Thomsonblueberry.jpg

Published: January 3rd 2017

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 320

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary, Australian

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 5 stars

Greer O’Reilly needs to start over. Her professional success belies private sadness and domestic overload. She’s torn between her career and motherhood. Her partner of twelve years has left her. And up ahead is her new home – a beautiful though neglected blueberry orchard in the hills of north-east Victoria.

But when she and her six-year-old daughter Sophie arrive at the property to take possession, there’s an unforeseen complication – the former owner, 81-year-old artist and jazz lover Charlie Chandler, refuses to move out. Charlie is dying and desperate to spend his last days in his old home.

With Greer at the beginning of her new life, and Charlie at the end of his, the unlikely pair soon form a close bond. One that will offer the strength and inspiration Greer needs – because the next twelve months will either make or break her . . .

My review:

Blueberry is a luscious contemporary story from a brand new voice in Australian fiction, Glenna Thomson. Blueberry chronicles the eventful journey of one woman’s determination to make a positive change in her life. This involves a big move from the hustle and bustle of life in the city, to the tranquil surrounds of the blueberry orchards. Blueberry is a delicate story with a sensitive touch.

Blueberry is the gentle story of Greer O’Reilly, a single mother to six year old Sophie, who is struggling to combine her role as a successful career woman and mum. When Greer comes across an opportunity to embark on a new venture through owning her own blueberry orchard that desperately needs revitalising, Greer decides to take the plunge and give it a go. Soon after moving to the rundown orchard, Greer befriends Charlie Chandler, the elderly previous owner of the orchard. Charlie presents Greer with a dilemma, he refuses to move on from his home due to illness. Although Greer is supportive of Charlie’s wishes to stay in his home until he passes away, it earns the ire of Charlie’s son Warren. Between battling for Charlie rights and caring for this increasingly ill old man, Greer must also contend with her very first blueberry season – can she make a success of it under Charlie’s watchful eye?

Blueberry is a simply sumptuous piece of Australian fiction that I rate a plump five stars. This book touched me in a way I didn’t expect. Underneath this tree change, city to country style novel, is an emotional tale of testing your limits and discovering a beautiful friendship that flourishes in unexpected circumstances.

In Blueberry, Glenna Thomson introduces the reader to a picturesque part of Australia and an area I am not familiar with, the hills region of north east Victoria. Despite not knowing the setting of the novel, I felt thoroughly immersed in the country setting of Blueberry. Thomson’s descriptions of her setting are perfectly pieced together and she is easily able to transport her reader to the locale of her story. I felt the cold along with Greer, smelt the aromas of the orchard, sensed the stillness of this isolated region and visualised the local wildlife. Thomson’s many years working on her own blueberry orchard have paid off immensely, her prose is assured and authentic, which is a pleasure to read. The highlight of Blueberry was the actual process of harvesting the blueberries. Thomson outlines the detailed process from the orchard to the table, which had me completely hooked.

The characters featured in Blueberry are what make this novel special. From main character Greer, to the gentle Charlie, love interest Shane and the minor characters such as backpacker come picker Enrico, all combine to make this novel a tapestry of interesting people I would love to meet. I immediately connected to Greer, perhaps understanding her predicament of trying to find the right balance between work and family. I admired Greer’s tenacity to throw it all in and start afresh in an unfamiliar territory. I also greatly admired her strength in supporting Charlie and his wishes, despite pressure from his son Warren. I relished Greer’s path to making the orchard a success and I found myself cheering her on the whole way! Charlie, the elderly previous owner of the orchard is such a well drawn character. I particularly loved Charlie’s artistic side and his preference for jazz music, it allowed us to see him as a character full of life, not just an ageing man nearing the end of his life. The tender relationship that sparks between Greer and Charlie is simply gorgeous and is one I won’t forget for some time.

Blueberry is also a book that looks at the difficulties of love. There is the problematic love life of Greer, as she develops feelings for a relative of Charlie’s, Shane. This country fling tests Greer’s emotions and when her ex re-enters her life at a crucial time, Greer must manage her feelings towards the two men. Thomson uses this storyline to show us the complexities faced by the modern Australian woman in love. Blueberry is a novel that has so much to give the reader by way of relationships, feelings and the beauty of the human spirit.

So, there are a few reasons why I chose to award Blueberry five stars. The intricate narrative, the stunning rolling hills setting, the fascinating blueberry orchardist storyline, the full bodied characters and the underlying themes of friendship and respect for the elderly. Blueberry is a book that has so much to offer the reader and do hope that I have convinced you to take a chance on it!

Blueberry by Glenna Thomson was published in January 2017 by Penguin Books Australia, details on how to purchase the book can be found here.


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