2017 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · romance · rural ficition

Book Review: Dear Banjo by Sasha Wasley

Title: Dear Banjodea banjo

Author:  Sasha Wasley

Published: May 29th 2017

Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia

Pages: 381

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary, Australian, Romance

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 5 stars

They were best friends who were never meant to fall in love – but for one of them, it was already way too late.

Willow ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Tom Forrest were raised on neighboring cattle stations in the heart of the Kimberley. As young adults, sharing the same life dreams, something came between them that Willow cannot forget, and now ten years have passed. When her father falls ill, Willow is called home to take over the running of the family property, Patterson Downs. Her vision for a sustainable, organic cattle station is proving hard to achieve. She needs Tom’s help, but is it all too late, and too difficult, to make amends?

A pile of Tom’s heartfelt letters has remained unopened and unspoken between them. Willow must find the courage to finally bring them out. Their tattered pages reveal a love story like no other – and one you’ll never forget. Dear Banjo is a wildly romantic and utterly captivating story about first love and second chances, from an exciting new Australian author.

My review:

Dear Banjo was always going to be a winner for me, as it includes all the things I love about a quality rural fiction book. From the strong West Australian based setting, to the emphasis on letters as a form of storytelling and the deeply romantic relationship between two childhood best friends from neighbouring cattle stations – Dear Banjo has so much going for it. It comes as no surprise that I was genuinely thrilled when an opportunity to review this novel presented itself to me.

Dear Banjo is the touching story of Willow ‘Banjo Patterson and Tom Forrest, who hail from neighbouring cattle stations in the Kimberley region, located in the north of Western Australia. Willow and Tom are as thick as thieves, in fact, as teenagers they make a pact that they will never let anything get in the way of their rock solid friendship. All that changes when life gets in the way. Tom crosses the boundaries of their friendship while celebrating the success of both of them gaining entry into university. With the death of her mother still fresh in Willow’s mind and the incident with Tom delivering feelings she would rather not confront, Willow escapes to the city. While Willow immerses herself in university life, Tom is left behind in the country, deferring his studies. Tom continues to fight for Willow and he pours his heart out to her in the form of many letters. However, Willow painfully shuts Tom out from her new life and his letters go unanswered. Some ten years later, after carving out a successful career at university, Willow must return to her family’s property. With Willow’s father taking a turn for the worse health wise, Willow must put the skills she learnt from her years in study into practice. Transforming her family’s property into a thriving sustainable and organic cattle station is no easy task. But what proves even harder for Willow is her relationship with Tom, which seems beyond repair.

As far as rural fiction goes, Dear Banjo is easily one of my favourite novels now from this fantastic genre. This pleases me greatly as I love to support new authors, especially writers from my home state of Western Australia, which is where Sasha Wasley hails from. Sasha Wasley is not a debut author, she has written books under the name S.D. Wasley in the mystery/paranormal genre. Dear Banjo signals the first book Wasley has written in the rural fiction or life lit genre and it is also her first publication for Penguin Random House Australia.

I adored Dear Banjo.  The combination of elements in this novel seemed to click together just perfectly. The unresolved and simmering relationship history between the leads, Willow and Tom, was the overwhelming reason why I loved this book. It was also the reason why I found it extremely hard to make way for real life while reading this book! All I wanted to do was stay with the characters and continue to experience this stunning story.

What I loved about Dear Banjo was the progression of Tom and Willow’s relationship. Wasley comprehensively covers the couple’s shared times as childhood friends, through to the changes that occur to their lives as teenagers and finally to the present day. In the here in now, we discover Tom and Willow are estranged. An eventual partnership seems unlikely, but the romantic in me was hopeful! On the whole, I found Tom and Willow’s relationship to be realistic, emotional and deeply human.

Willow and Tom are well developed characters. Whilst it took a bit for me to like Willow, I eventually began to make sense of the decisions she made, even though I didn’t always agree with them. Willow makes a great transformation in character during the progression of Dear Banjo. In contrast, Tom was a protagonist I took an immediate liking to. The addition of his letters to the narrative gave us a deep insight into his character. I loved the character of Tom immensely, in fact, I wished my husband could express his feelings in the way Tom romantically does in Dear Banjo! Tom and Willow are supported by a solid cast of supporting characters, who all make a solid contribution to the unfolding story. Two periphery characters featured in Dear Banjo, Free and Beth, Willow’s sisters, left a significant impression on me. I was over the moon when I discovered these two sisters would eventually get their own stories, courtesy of the next two books to be written by Sasha Wasley.

The setting of this book must be mentioned, as it is so well drawn. Wasley’s setting descriptions bring us deep into the heart of the Kimberley. It was a place I didn’t want to leave, thanks to Wasley’s prose. Likewise, Wasley’s focus on the farming practices on the two outback stations featured in the novel was informative, authentic and accessible. It reflected the depth of research Wasley has clearly undertaken in this area.

I could pipe on and on about Dear Banjo, but as this review is already proving lengthy, I will wrap it up by concluding that I endorse this book completely. It is utterly deserving of a full five star rating.  Dear Banjo should be an auto buy for readers who are drawn to rural fiction or contemporary life literature.

*I received a copy of this book via the publisher, Penguin Random House Australia, in exchange for an honest review.

Dear Banjo, by Sasha Wasley was published in May 2017 by Penguin Random House Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Dear Banjo, Sasha Wasley, visit her website here.

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