Title: The Drifter
Author: Anthea Hodgson
Published: September 19th 2016
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Australian, Rural, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Cate Christie is a party girl, unable to commit to anything, until she is involved in a tragic accident that changes everything. To escape her guilt and her parents’ bitter disapproval, Cate leaves Perth for her aunt Ida’s isolated farm in country Western Australia.
Henry is a drifter, a young swagman-like character who wanders onto the Christie family property and takes up residence in a disused shed. With secrets of his own, the last thing he wants is to get tangled up in Cate and Ida’s lives.
Against their own better judgement, the fates of Cate and Henry and Ida inexorably intertwine and they learn to face the realities of life, death and letting go.
A witty, charming and moving debut rural romance about what makes a good death and, more importantly, what makes a good life.
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.
The Drifter by Anthea Hodgson was published in September 2016 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Visit Anthea Hodgson’s website here.