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 is 1914 and Lithgow is booming. Daniel is a young German-Australian, a coalminer and a socialist; Francine is the bourgeois, Irish-Catholic, too-good-for-this-place daughter of one of the mine’s owners. When their paths collide, they fall in love despite themselves – raising eyebrows all around town. But before the signatures on their marriage certificate are dry, war erupts, confronting them with a new and much more terrifying obstacle. Against his principles but driven by a sense of solidarity, Daniel enlists; Francine, horrified, has no choice but to support him. As they hurtle towards a daunting world of war, separation and grief, they learn things about themselves and one another that they would never have expected in more certain times – about heroism, sacrifice, the thin line between courage and stupidity, and, most of all, about the magical power of love. told with freshness, verve and humour, Black Diamonds is a celebration of two people determined to be together, whatever life throws at them.
Black Diamonds is Kim Kelly’s debut novel, which was released in 2007. I have read a number of books written by Kim Kelly, but I was keen to discover where her writing career started. I’m so glad I listened to the praises of close book friend who has endorsed this book and encouraged me to read Black Diamonds as part of a reading challenge I am completing this year. Black Diamonds is an unforgettable and eternal love story, a true reflection of war and a reminder of the sacrifices made by the Australian people over a century ago.
Black Diamonds opens in 1914, in the area of Lithgow. We meet Daniel, a young man with German roots, who works in the local coal mine. Alongside Daniel we also meet Francine, a young woman of Irish-Catholic descent, who is the daughter of the coal mine owner. When an accident occurs, Daniel is thrust into the path of Francine and the two forge an unlikely relationship. Before long this burgeoning relationship results in the couple declaring their desire to marry. Their happiness is short lived, before the couple can settle into their new marriage the war arrives on their doorstep. Daniel is compelled to enlist, which leaves Francine utterly bereft. Daniel and Francine are tested to their very limits as they endure the pain of the unknown, separation and loss. While enduring the pain of distance, the two find their enforced separation has helped them grow as a person. In the process, it is the love they share that continues to bind them together in the toughest of times.
Nobody does Australian historical fiction quite like Kim Kelly. She is such a natural and valued voice. It comes as no surprise to me at all that I appreciated the inner beauty of Black Diamonds very much. Not only is Black Diamonds a true, passionate and moving account of the war from the eyes of an Australian, it is a wonderful historical romance. I found myself quite taken with the scenes of our leads first meeting and I watched on in delight as their gentle romance flourished. Kelly shows us how love knows no bounds, especially in the face of class differences, religious divisions and opposing cultural backgrounds.
There were a few tears shed when I read the harrowing war sequences contained in this book. There were so many emotions swirling around inside me. I felt grateful one minute and furious the next. We can never really know of the pure sacrifice and incredible impact the brave men who fought in the Great War for our country to the fullest degree. In Black Diamonds, Kelly works to subtly expand our understanding of the contribution these heroic men made to our nation. The war sequences covered in Black Diamonds was equal parts realistic and shocking. Kelly does a superb job of outlining Australia’s involvement and the typical Australian soldier’s experiences of war.
Kelly’s sense of time and place is spot on. I got a very good feeling of the main Australian based locale (Lithgow), the influence of the mining sector at this time, as well as the multicultural feel of the area. As I have witnessed in the previous books I have read by Kelly, it is clear Kelly has conducted a great deal of research into the main subject area, time period and location, it shows. What also shines through is the focus on the changes to Australia society, the social practices, attitudes and policies that defined this era. I found Kelly’s dedication to this aspect of her novel impressive.
Black Diamonds is a gem of a novel that covers all bases, so the end result is a high quality historical fiction title. It has solid characterisation, a well drawn setting, a timeless romance and an all encompassing narrative. If you are a fan of Kelly, I would suggest seeking Black Diamonds out. I found it interesting to see where Kelly’s career began, this is a monumental debut.
Black Diamonds by Kim Kelly was published on 1st May 2007 by Harper Collins Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Black Diamonds, Kim Kelly, visit here.
Black Diamonds is book #65 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge
*Book ‘K’ of the a-z author challenge 2018