2017 Reviews · Australian · historical fiction · Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday Book Review: Heritage by Judy Nunn


Welcome to a weekly post, Throwback Thursday. This weekly book review post is a way to share some old favourites, books that were published over a year ago and most importantly those books that have been languishing on the to be read pile for far too long!

It my pleasure to bring you this week’s Throwback Thursday Book Review. Heritage, is a 2005 release, from an Australian storyteller I truly admire, Judy Nunn. A recent overseas holiday encouraged me to put this one in my suitcase and it proved to be the perfect poolside accessory. After reading this Throwback Thursday offering by Judy Nunn, I’m now very keen to get into her latest, Sanctuary.

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In a time when desperate people were seizing with both hands the chance for freedom, refugees from more than seventy nations gathered beneath the Southern Cross to forge a new national identity. They came from all over wartorn Europe to the mountains of Australia to help realise one man’s dream: the mighty Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century.

People of all races and creeds tunnelled through a mountain range to turn the course of a majestic river, trying to put to rest ghosts from the inferno of history: buried memories, unimaginable pain and deadly secrets.

From the ruins of Berlin to the birth of Israel, from the Italian Alps to the Australian high country, HERITAGE is a passionate and fast-paced tale of rebirth, struggle, sacrifice and redemption, and a tribute to those who gave meaning to the Australian spirit.

My review:

As a West Australian girl born and bred, the construction of the NSW based, Snowy Mountains scheme to bring hydroelectricity to the region from the late 1940’s, through to the early 1970’s, seems to have escaped my attention. One of Australia’s best known storytellers, Judy Nunn, ensures that this pivotal engineering project is not lost in the history books.

Following the devastating effects of World War II, many refugees decided they needed a new future abroad, leading them to seek opportunities offered by countries such as Australia. From all corners of the globe, these displaced people came to the land down under, answering the call for labour, after Australia suffered a skills shortage following the war. One of Australia’s largest construction and engineering projects that commenced soon after the war was the Snowy Mountains based hydro electric scheme. Work on the construction of the various tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts was dangerous, back breaking but fundamental to Australia. Heritage is a grand narrative and a true testament to the colourful cultures that came together to produce this amazing engineering feat.

Heritage is the ninth novel I have read by an author I admire, Judy Nunn. The tried and tested formula of Nunn’s historically based Australian fiction sagas just seems to work every time. I am always astounded by the extent of research and detail Nunn puts into each of her novels. Heritage, which was published back in 2005, is no exception. It just seems a shame I waited this long to read Heritage!

I feel quite embarrassed that as an Australian, I did not know anything about the Snowy Mountains scheme until I read Nunn’s book. However, through the experience of reading Heritage, I was able to develop an appreciation for the many years of hard work that went into the construction of this engineering enigma. As with many of Nunn’s books, I always feel the urge to visit the site of the focus of her novels and Heritage was a book that ensured that I placed the Snowy Mountains region as a must see site.

Combined within this accessible history of Australia’s largest construction scheme, Heritage is the story of a small collection of characters that come from varying areas of the globe to Cooma, the main site of the hydro scheme. Nunn’s exploration of her core characters, such as Lucky, Pietro and Ruth, provides the reader with an insight into the cosmopolitan nature of the Cooma site during the years of the scheme. Nunn’s characters all have interesting, complex and varying personal histories. She is able to give a good cross section of experiences of post World War II life, from Italy, to Israel and Germany. Each of these experiences is individualised and is drawn from the myriad of real life migrant stories to come out of the construction of the scheme. Perhaps the story that struck a chord with me the most was the Holocaust aspects and one of the main players of the novel, Ruth’s experiences. Nunn handles these aspects of the novel with historical insight and a sense of sentimentality that moved me almost to tears. All these stories compounded well, with the exception of a few coincidences.

Heritage is novel that is grand in scale and purpose. I believe Nunn succeeds in bringing the reader a historically grounded book that intertwines the fascinating and colourful personal stories of the pioneering engineers of the hydro electric scheme. Heritage also offers a solid portrait of the post World War II period in Australia, with many of these feelings expressed in the novel felt across the world.  Heritage is another winner from top Australian storyteller, Judy Nunn.

Heritage by Judy Nunn was published in 2005. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Heritage, Judy Nunn, visit here.

13 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday Book Review: Heritage by Judy Nunn

  1. I really must read this one by Judy. We visited the museum in the Snowy Mountains when we were on holiday there a couple of years ago and even went the hydro power station for a look – my husband works in the electricity industry and a former colleague of his works there now. I’ve always been fascinated by the project. It’s something I’ve always known existed in history and then I looked at it in more depth through a cultural history course I did at Uni. I bought a non-fiction book from the museum, which was excellent, but I think this novel will be right up my alley. Fabulous review! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Theresa, thanks for stopping by my Throwback Thursday post this week. If you can make time, I highly recommend this one, it’s a great read from Judy. Oh how lucky you are to have visited the site and museum. Slightly jealous! I’m fascinated by the project too, it was a one of kind project for Australia. Great to hear you purchased a non fiction book based on the project. I’m sure it’s a keepsake.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome review Amanda! April was studying my map of NSW today as she wants to go on a road trip for her 30th Birthday and she has now chosen to travel to Jindabyne which will include exploring Cooma, Batlow (Batlow apples), Thredbo and if time permits a trip to Tumut – a 2 1/2 hour drive from Jindabyne – a bit far but I would love for her to check out the Snowy mountain hydro electric scheme. I think she will enjoy this trip as it will still be warm in March and can scout around without worrying about snow. We visited Jindabyne and surrounding areas in January a few years back and we loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Sue, Heritage proved to be the perfect Bali holiday read! I love April’s plans for her 30th road trip. I might have to tag along, lol! I’m very jealous if your access to these places.


      1. Haha, I want to tag along too, we might have to hide in April’s (car) boot, Amanda, lol.
        I read Heritage years ago and find it hard to believe I haven’t read another Judy Nunn book since, I really must rectify that as I have a few of hers on my shelf: Elianne, Maralinga, Floodtide and Kal.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I found this today on one of my TBR shelves. I scored 8 Judy Nunn novels last year from a help yourself box at work. A teacher was relocating and didn’t want to take her books (the horror!) and she was quite a Judy Nunn fan. I took them all and Heritage is one of them!

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