Title: The Cowgirl
Author: Anthea Hodgson
Published: February 26th 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Australian, Rural
Rating: 5 stars
‘When you look up at that sky, tell me you don’t know the world is bigger than this farm.’
Teddy Broderick is committed to her busy life in the country – seeding, harvest, shearing, and the daily milking of her grandmother’s cow – but she dreams of another life, in the world beyond the farm gate.
But just as she thinks she knows everything about her family, her grandmother Deirdre announces there is a house buried on the property, and archaeologist Will Hastings is coming to dig it up.
What is hidden in Deirdre’s childhood home that she needs to see again before she dies? What is preventing Teddy from living the life she truly wants, and will she ever find her freedom?
As Teddy and Will work to expose past secrets to the light,the stories they tell bring them together, and unearth a whole world of buried treasures.
We are very lucky here in Western Australia, to claim so many great rural fiction writers as one of our own. One of the shining stars in this genre is Anthea Hodgson, a talented West Aussie author and country girl. Since Anthea published her debut novel, The Drifter, which was personally one of my favourite novels of 2017, Anthea is going great guns in her writing. The Cowgirl, her latest, is another impressive and quintessential rural tale, filled with a number of enduring characters.
At the very heart of The Cowgirl, is Anthea Hodgson’s lead, Teddy Broderick. Country life is what Teddy lives and thrives on. Every day, Teddy works hard to keep her beloved grandmother’s farm ticking over. With all the milking, shearing and harvesting, there is little room to desire a life beyond the farm. Teddy’s carefully ordered world is about is get a shake up from the shock revelation of a huge family secret. There is a house buried beneath the compound of her grandmother’s farm and an archaeologist has been sent to uncover it. The announcement of the buried home and her grandmother’s sheer determination to unearth after years of it being buried has Teddy confused. The appearance of Will, the archaeologist who is working on her grandmother’s case causes further angst for Teddy as she begins to think about a very different future, possibly away from the farm. But can this fair dinkum farm girl break free from the confines of her farm and the protected life she has with her dear grandmother?
There is a real spark to Anthea Hodgson’s writing style and I just love it. I have to say, since I found out last year that Anthea was writing another novel to back up her stellar debut, The Drifter, I have been rather eager in waiting for my copy to arrive! All the anticipation for this book is warranted, Anthea, you have again penned another top notch read that I could not for the life of me put down!
I am sure you can glean from this review that I am definitely singing the praises of this novel. Why did I like it? Well, I loved the direction that Anthea took with The Cowgirl. The touch of mystery and intrigue in the form of the buried house and the family secrets that went along with it, served to draw me deep into this novel. I adore books that revolve around secrets and old ruins, so this one was completely up my alley. Anthea did an absolutely fantastic job with this aspect of the novel. She kept the suspense high, the intrigue was perfectly paced and the final reveal had a great lead up.
Romance also plays a part in this novel and Anthea has just the right touch in this area of her novel. She ties together an unforgettable tale of love in the past, using a story thread involving Deirdre, Teddy’s grandmother. This one will be sure tug away at your heart strings, please keep some tissues on hand! Meanwhile, Teddy’s contemporary dalliance with the archaeologist Will is also written from the heart. Hodgson demonstrates her awareness of the issues and insecurities plaguing any romance from getting off the ground. The romance element of The Cowgirl, certainly hooked me right in.
What a trailblazer the character of Deirdre is in The Cowgirl. I’m confident I will not be forgetting Deirdre any time soon. I really, I mean really, loved her story and her character in general. Anthea is such a skilled storyteller and her characterisation is simply superb. I witnessed this first hand by her approach to Deirdre. With so many setbacks and tests to her character, Deirdre remained stoic, what an admirable woman! I have plenty of time for Teddy too, but I think Deirdre steals the show in The Cowgirl. Teddy is a tender protagonist. I admired many of her traits such as her loyalty and hardworking nature. I also empathised with her reservations and her inability to see a life for herself beyond the farm. It was completely substantiated. I loved how Hodgson approached this character’s inner turmoil. Be assured, there are also plenty of outer characters that contribute significantly to the workings of this very fine novel.
As this is a small town rural fiction novel, do expect to be dazzled by Hodgson’s descriptions of life in a tiny but supportive community. These aspects of rural fiction novels such as The Cowgirl are always my favourite. Living in the city my whole life, I have had no exposure to these kind of close knit little farm towns. The unconditional support of one another and the general sense that ‘we are in this together’ is a strong message in this novel. Anthea has certainly outdone herself in this department, her setting is just so vibrant it leaps off the page.
The Cowgirl is another splendid homespun tale, from the gifted Ms Hodgson. With a strong setting, plenty of big hearted characters and a storyline based around a long buried secret that I was genuinely curious about, The Cowgirl has obvious appeal. Be sure to get hold of a copy sooner rather than later if you have a weakness for Australian rural fiction novels.
The Cowgirl by Anthea Hodgson is published on February 26th 2018 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Cowgirl, Anthea Hodgson visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Cowgirl is book #20 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge