#aww2018 · 2018 Reviews · book bingo · contemporary fiction · dual time frame · historical fiction · United States

#Book Bingo 2018: ‘A book more than 500 pages’ – Southern Ruby by Belinda Alexandra

Book bingo 18 Aug.jpg

#Book Bingo 2018 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite blogger, Theresa Smith WritesHow does it work?  We have devised our own personalised book bingo card game. Twice a month, on the first and third Saturday of the month, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The book bingo card contains a total of 25 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year. To accommodate all the squares, we will be posting additional entries in the months of March and June, this will ensure that we stay on track to complete the book bingo game by December. To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us. We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post or by visiting Theresa Smith Writes.

In New Orleans – the city of genteel old houses and ancient oak trees covered in Spanish Southern ruby smallmoss, of seductive night life, of Creole culture, voodoo and jazz – two women separated by time and tragedy will find each other at last. Amanda, orphaned as a child and suffering the loss of her beloved grandmother, has left Sydney in search of a family she never knew. Ruby, constrained by the expectations of society and class, is carrying a lifetime of secrets. Amanda’s arrival sparks revelations long buried: a double life, a forbidden love, and a loss that cannot be forgotten. Southern Ruby is a sweeping story of love, passion, family and honour. Alternating in time between the 1950s and the eve of Hurricane Katrina, it is also a tribute to a city heady with mystery, music, and superstition, which has borne the tumults of race and class and the fury of nature, but has never given up hope.

My review:

An opulent and sweeping tale awaits the reader when they select Southern Ruby. A convergence of the past and present, crossing two contrasted countries and covering two generations, is the grand tale of Southern Ruby. This novel is a 500 plus page turner from Australian author Belinda Alexandra.

Southern Ruby travels to New Orleans, a city that is defined by grand architecture and stunning gardens, along with a lively night life. Along with the unique trademark of Creole culture, mysticism and music, Southern Ruby aligns the lives of two women, once divided by secrets and tragedy. In the present day, Amanda lives in Sydney, but she is haunted by the past. She was orphaned as a young child, and cared for by her grandmother. Since her grandmother’s recent passing, Amanda has felt the calling to search for a family she knows little about. On the other side of this story is Ruby, a forward thinking woman, who has lived a full life. Now is the time to reveal the secrets of Ruby’s past, thanks to the arrival of Amanda. As Ruby’s story is slowly unravelled, plenty of secrets are exposed. It seems Ruby once lived a colourful life, defined by double jeopardy, lies, and love. Southern Ruby is an unforgettable novel that encompasses desire, duty and family ties. The gentle switch between two different time zones and locales helps elevate this tale to something truly great.

The seventh novel by Belinda Alexandra, published in 2016, is my choice for book bingo 2018. The category I need to cover this time around is a book more than 500 pages. Southern Ruby is a novel that easily fits the bill. When a book of this length is presented to me I usually balk at the prospect of having to sift through such a doorstop! However, I promise you this wasn’t the case for Southern Ruby. The pages just seemed to take on a life of their own, they literally flew away. I enjoyed this book from cover to cover.

I am now quite familiar with Belinda Alexandra’s signature style. She applies a certain formula to her books, melding between the past and the present, along with a rich presentation of accessible history.  I just seem to keep coming back for more! I loved The White Gardenia, Alexandra’s first novel, it remains one of my all time favourite books. The experience of reading Southern Ruby reminded me of why I love Alexandra’s writing.

Alexandra is a master storyteller. She is able to weave quite pertinent historical facts around a wholly engaging narrative. Within Southern Ruby, it is clear that Alexandra has embarked on a lengthy research process. Her attention to detail and the delivery of historical facts is faultless. I also loved how she was able to tie in a modern history to her tale.

New Orleans is the prime location for Southern Ruby. While some of the present day sequences are set in Sydney, the past storyline is situated in 1950’s New Orleans. I have very little back knowledge of this American location. Though I do have a desire to visit some day in the future. Southern Ruby is the closest opportunity I will get to experiencing all New Orleans has to offer. I consumed the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of this very different locale. I loved the architecture, history, cultural aspects, local residents and of course the music. It was a joy to experience all this through the pages of Southern Ruby. On a sad note, Alexandra also opens our eyes to the impact of Hurricane Katrina, which unleashed its wrath on the people of New Orleans in 2005. It is hard to read these sequences without developing a big knot in your throat.

The character arcs in Southern Ruby are fabulous. Alexandra carefully balances out the present day character journey of Amanda, with her grandmother Ruby’s past. Both stories were compelling and I was drawn equally to both leading ladies. In Amanda, we observe a young woman dealing with abandonment, loss, identity and connection. In Ruby, we observe a woman longing to break free from the confines and restrictions placed on her during a time of great upheaval. Alexandra works well to highlight these contrasting character awakenings, along with a rich examination of the social, as well as political conditions in New Orleans at this time. The racial segregation components were particularly well handled by Alexandra.

It is a lengthy but worthwhile journey to travel in the company of Amanda and Ruby in Southern Ruby. Readers are rewarded with a tale that compresses love, passion, heartbreak, loss, mystery and semblance all within the one rich family based saga. Southern Ruby definitely awakened my desire to seek out the two remaining books I have yet to discover of Belinda Alexandra’s, along with her upcoming release, The Invitation.

Southern Ruby by Belinda Alexandra was published on August 22nd 2016. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Southern RubyBelinda Alexandravisit here

Southern Ruby, is book #100 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge

8 thoughts on “#Book Bingo 2018: ‘A book more than 500 pages’ – Southern Ruby by Belinda Alexandra

  1. No surprises – I love her books. Must revisit them all in order again. She was probably a major influencer of my love for dual timeline historical fic I would
    I think my favourite was Sapphire Skiesi

    Liked by 1 person

  2. #Book Bingo 2018: ‘A book everyone is talking about’ – The Last of the Bonegilla Girls by Victoria Purman

    I really really wanted to love this book as I was a Bonegilla girl too, well, actually a Bonegilla toddler. My parents migrated to Australia from Germany in 1966 and their first stop was the Bonegilla Migrant Camp. Our stay wasn’t a long one but my parents enjoyed their short stay and were looking forward to making a new life in Australia, and they embraced the Australian way with gusto.

    I was a touch disappointed with this novel. There was so much talk about this book, focusing attention on the Bonegilla Migrant Camp on social media I became quite excited and was looking forward to reading a story based only in the Migrant Camp, or so I thought, but instead the book revolved around four Bonegilla girls, their romance, their secrets and lots and lots of drama, which was a bit off putting especially Vasiliki’s secret, a secret she kept to herself – wrong, just so wrong.
    So definitely not how I imagined the story to transpire at all. Exploring more of the ins and outs of the Bonegilla Migrant Camp, and a bigger glimpse into the ‘girls’ parents work/job would have been a lot more fascinating and would have made the book feel more authentic, in my opinion anyway.

    Here’s a passage that irked me:
    ‘Those teachers are teaching them how to be Australian.’ Giuseppe turned back to her. ‘How to be Australian? Never. They will always be Italian. And we must always speak Italian to them. Always. They can’t forget our language. Our culture. Our food.’
    geez, what an attitude! Thank goodness my parents didn’t force all that on to me!

    For anyone thinking the term ‘New Australian’ is politically incorrect, pull your head in. Goodness, we came to a new country we were new and living in Australia, therefore the term New Australian fits perfectly. Too many overly sensitive people these days, me thinks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ok, I have been mulling over how to respond to this one sorry Sue for a few days now. Apologies for my delay and radio silence! Thank you for adding your entry for book bingo this round and I’m glad you chose this book. I’m sad that it didn’t live up to your expectations and you didn’t share the same response as me to this book. However, things wouldn’t be interesting in the book world if we all shared the same interest and love for books!


  3. It’s not that I thought the book was not good in any way, Amanda, it’s just I had this idea in my head the focus would be only on the Bonegilla migrant camp – a memoir style fiction book than that of a story filled with secrets and romance. If I hadn’t had those expectations and a connection to Bonegilla I’m sure I would have felt different towards the book.

    Love the book you chose for book bingo as you know I love this author’s work. I have a few of her books on my unread shelf I hope Southern Ruby is one of them!

    Liked by 1 person

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