Title: Facing the Flame (Matilda Saga, Book #7)
Author: Jackie French
Published: November 20th 2017
Publisher: Harper Collins Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Australian
Rating: 4 stars
There have been fires before, but not like this. Heartbreaking and powerful, FACING THE FLAME is a story of the triumph of courage and community, and a love for the land so deep that not even bushfire can erode it. ‘The perfect read for anyone who loves immersing themselves in Australian fiction. Gripping,emotional and moving, Facing the Flame is a great book to curl up with on a warm spring night.’ – New Idea. There have been fires before,but not like this. In 1978, as the hot wind howls and the grass dries, all who live at Gibber’s Creek know their land can burn. But when you love your land, you fight for it. For Jed Kelly, an even more menacing danger looms: a man from her past determined to destroy her. Finding herself alone, trapped and desperate to save her unborn child, Jed’s only choice is to flee – into the flames. Heartbreaking and powerful, Facing the Flame celebrates the triumph of courage and community, and a love for the land so deep that not even bushfire can erode it.
Jackie French, the author of Facing the Flame, is a national treasure. She is an author of an extensive range of books, across a variety of genres. I know her work best through her children’s picture books that I have read both to my children and my kindergarten students. Her latest, Facing the Flame, is the 7th instalment in the popular Matilda saga. Although I have only read one other book in this saga, I firmly believe this book does stand on its own and can easily be read in isolation to the previous books in the series.
Facing the Flame takes the reader to the year 1978, in a bush township called Gibber’s Creek. The locals know that with the hot winds and dry land, a bushfire is imminent. Fighting to save the beloved township of Gibber’s Creek and its surrounds are a band of women, each with their own challenges. Lu is an aspiring jockey but her plans of making it to the professional riding circuit have been derailed by her loss of sight. Scarlett is another key figure fighting the flames that have come for Gibber’s Creek. Scarlett is a medical school student, who risks her career and the love of her life to save the life of child in the wake of the bushfires. Then there is Flinty, who is determined to protect that land that means so much to her, using her first hand knowledge and techniques from the generations that came before her. The final pivotal character to round up the proceedings of the story is Jed, a young woman expecting a baby. Jed faces the fight of her life, against the fire and a man from her past, who seems absolutely determined to kill her. Facing the Flame follows these courageous women as they battle to come out on the other side of this deadly fire, which is steadily ripping apart their community.
My immediate impression of this novel was that it is one very well researched book and a powerful yarn, clearly drawn from French’s first hand experiences. In fact, I recently read an interview with the author to celebrate the publication of this novel in a popular Australian magazine. I discovered a number of noteworthy facts about the author of Facing the Flame from this article that certainly extended my reading of this novel. I discovered that Facing the Flame is based on French’s personal and own father’s experiences dealing with bushfires. It is clear the land and the bush runs through French’s roots. Facing the Flame is a novel that is unafraid to show the reader the raw truth to the devastation caused by one of our nation’s biggest threats, fire.
French is a novelist who has a firm handle on her character list. Facing the Flame features an array of characters, both main and periphery, who all contribute well to this compelling story. It took me awhile to get a firm handle on who was who character wise, but once I had this set the story flowed. As a suggestion, I would have liked a character list in the front of the book to assist me in the early stages of reading this novel. For me personally, I developed an attachment to the character of Jed. Her story was quite incredible! Jed’s story also allows French to incorporate a side theme of suspense. The villain of the story is introduced to the fold through Jed’s narrative and this story thread encouraged me to flick through the pages of Facing the Flame quickly indeed. I also feel I must acknowledge the presence of the bushfire in this novel, it is quite overwhelming. At the close of most chapters in this book, there is a reference to the encroaching fire. It made me feel a strong sense of unease, through French’s vivid prose and at the same time, it gave me an appreciation of the full force of fire, especially in our bush areas.
Facing the Flame is a book defined by many moments of stunning prose and realistic dialogue. The pace is steady throughout, with the action building nearer the close of the novel. In terms of setting, French is able to bring the time frame (late 1970’s) to the audience very well indeed. Her main locale, a fictional bush based township named Gibber’s Creek, came alive before my eyes while reading this novel. This indicates the talent and power of French’s writing. Finally, Facing the Flame is a very accessible book that I encourage both adults and younger readers (14+) to take up to read, you will not be disappointed.
My final word on Facing the Flame is that I appreciated this novel very much. I felt moved by the intensity of the subject area – bushfires and the endurance, as well as the heroism, displayed by the characters of Gibber’s Creek. Facing the Flame is an inspiring and rousing novel that served to remind me of the powerful inferno force of Mother Nature – bushfire. My reading of Facing the Flame has promoted me to check my sagging book shelves, to see if I can catch up on the previous stories in this addictive historical fiction series over the summer holiday period.
Facing the Flame by Jackie French was published on 20th November 2017 by Harper Collins Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Facing the Flame, Jackie French, visit here.
*Please note that a free copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes through Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins Books Australia. To read the original review on the Beauty and Lace website please visit here.