Title: In the Valley of Blue Gums
Author: J.H. Fletcher
Published: May 2st 2018
Publisher: Harlequin – Mira
Genres: Fiction, Australian, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
Journalist Thea Anderson’s adventurous life has been one of endless danger. Even her childhood, where she and her mother were forced to flee Malaya in the fish–stinking hold of a junk in the dying days of colonialism, was fraught with peril.
For a time it seemed she would find safe harbour in Tasmania in the arms of winemaker Peter Torrance, but her restless spirit cannot be contained. Thea’s ambition is to travel the world as a foreign correspondent but Peter is dedicated to his family vineyard in a blue gum valley: it seems their love must fail.
Thea makes her name internationally with her coverage of the assassination of President Kennedy then the escalating war in Vietnam, one of the only women in the field. Her job leads her further into peril and death stalks her all the way, until a return to Tasmania opens the door to a new and exciting career.
Will this opportunity allow her to become reunited with the man she used to love? Or has that dream vanished, like mist in the valley of blue gums?
The title, In the Valley of Blue Gums (the blue gum is the state tree of Tasmania), the rich Australian cover and my past reading history with the author J.H. Fletcher, all culminated in a feeling that I just had to read this novel. Thanks to an opportunity through Beauty and Lace book club, I am able to enjoy my third book written by J.H. Fletcher. In the Valley of Blue Gums is a modern historical fiction title that deftly combines love, ambition and partnership in the one involving novel.
In the Valley of Blue Gums introduces the principal character of Thea Anderson. Right from her formative years Thea’s life has encompassed adventure and high drama. J.H. Fletcher travels to Malaya in the beginning of his latest novel, where we learn that Thea and her mother were forced to flee the area due to the collapse of colonialism. Then, after seeking solace in the peaceful surrounds of Tasmania, Thea falls in love with a winemaker, but her free spirit cannot be quelled. Instead, Thea leaves the beloved vineyard life she has with Peter, for the excitement of an overseas posting as a foreign correspondent. Thea’s career takes her across the globe. She covers the assassination of
President Kennedy and then moves onto the dangers of wartime Vietnam. Eventually, after coming close to death, Thea turns her attentions to a different career back home. But can this free spirit settle into life back home in the arms of man she loves? Is it enough?
As soon as I picked up In the Valley of Blue Gums to read, I was reminded of just how much I enjoy the writing of J.H. Fletcher. I especially like the way in which he approaches of each of novels, this one included. He is able to firmly grab a hold of the past and weave these events into an engaging fictional tale, featuring dynamic characters. Fletcher certainly knows his craft, he composes his tales to a perfect symphony of facts combined with fiction. He also structures his novels in a way that they flow gently from place to place and time period to time period.
In the Valley of Blue Gums sees Fletcher situate his new novel in a number of different international locales. We are transported with Thea, to her childhood in Malaya, we then move to Thea’s reporting years in the US and Vietnam. To please his loyal Australian readers, Fletcher faithfully returns to Tasmania, showcasing a beautiful vineyard area. As a self confessed lover of all things Tasmanian, Fletcher won me over. What I picked up on with this novel, was that no matter what the location or time zone, Fletcher had a good handle on his locale.
Fletcher’s leading lady is Thea, who is one of the most vibrant and intrepid female protagonist’s I have come across for some time. It was an absolute pleasure to follow Thea’s colourful and adventure filled journey from her childhood, right through until her 60’s. It is a rich life, full of abundant scenes that defined history over the decades. Thea is supported by a rich secondary cast and I have to say I thoroughly appreciated the way Thea’s character interacted with these figures.
The most confronting part of this novel was the opening scene and the history that is explored by Fletcher. When we first meet Thea she has been the victim of a bombing in a cafe in Sydney. This brings to light the current climate of present day Australian society. While in the past, the examination of the Kennedy era in the US leaves much to think about. Likewise, the most overwhelming part of In the Valley of Blue Gums was the Vietnam War sequences, where we follow Thea in the field. It is a perilous feat on behalf of the lead, but in the process we gain a better understanding of how the Vietnamese people were directly impacted by the war. We also gain a little more appreciation of what the Vietnamese truly thought of the war and the revelations are heartbreaking.
For me, the starring feature which I feel I must spotlight is the Tasmanian winery sequences. I adored learning more about the business of wine making in this region, what works and what doesn’t. I almost booked my return visit to Tasmania!
The back cover of In the Valley of Blue Gums reads, ‘another compelling novel from master storyteller J.H. Fletcher’. I couldn’t have put it any better myself. This is a great read that I am very happy to recommend to fans of Fletcher’s work and all historical fiction enthusiasts.
In the Valley of Blue Gums by J.H. Fletcher was published on 21st May 2018 by Harlequin – Mira. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*Please note that a free copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes through Beauty & Lace and Harlequin – Mira. To read the original review on the Beauty & Lace website please visit here.