Title: The Lost Valley
Author: Jennifer Scoullar
Published: August 27th 2018
Publisher: Pilyara Press
Genres: Fiction, Australian, Historical
Rating: 4.5 stars
A Tasmanian East Of Eden
A sweeping saga of ambition, betrayal and dangerous love.
Tasmania, 1929: Ten-year-old-twins, Tom and Harry Abbott, are orphaned by a tragedy that shocks Hobart society. They find sanctuary with their reclusive grandmother, growing up in the remote and rugged Binburra ranges – a place where kind-hearted Tom discovers a love of the wild, Harry nurses a growing resentment towards his brother and where the mountains hold secrets that will transform both their lives.
The chaos of World War II divides the brothers, and their passion for two very different women fuels a deadly rivalry. Can Tom and Harry survive to heal their rift? And what will happen when Binburra finally reveals its astonishing secrets?
From Tasmania’s highlands to the Battle of Britain, and all the way to the golden age of Hollywood, The Lost Valley is a lush family saga about two brothers whose fates are entwined with the land and the women they love.
Jennifer Scoullar, a much respected writer who champions Australia’s flora and fauna in intricately woven narratives, makes her mark with her latest novel, The Lost Valley. A truly heartfelt and insightful tribute to Tasmania, this magnificent Australian saga ties in themes of brotherhood, jealously, sibling rivalry, love, career and personal aspirations, all within the one sprawling novel. The Lost Valley is also able to transverse time and place, shifting effortlessly between Tasmania and Britain, before, during and after the war. It is a timeless piece of Australian historical fiction.
It seems I was completely oblivious to the fact that this is book two of the Tasmanian Tales collection and I had not read the first yet. I did not feel any holes or gaps when following this new story. In fact, I happily devoured The Lost Valley from cover to cover. I would have been quite content for this story to continue further as I admired it very much. I am just hoping and praying that Jenifer Scoullar has another Tasmanian tale up her sleeve, I can’t get enough!
I delved head first into The Lost Valley by Jennifer Scoullar. The shocking prologue works as the perfect device to hook the reader in to this involving tale. It also sets the tone for what is to come and gives the reader at hint of the state of affairs that defines the direction of this novel. This trauma and resulting mystery overshadows the entire novel. Scoullar dips in and out of this tragic heritage line through her narrative. The eventual climax of events links to this stupefying episode in Harry and Tom’s family history. I admired the way in which Scoullar made these connections.
For a saga, The Lost Valley is not as weighty as novels that usually define this genre, but make not mistake, it is a grandiose tale. The Lost Valley is an accessible family saga, that weaves in and out of places and time frames with guided ease. So as a result, we are transported to the Battle of Britain flying a spitfire, or we are trekking the Tasmanian mountains, or living the depression in Hobart. Each moment in time is carefully illuminated by the expert storytelling skills of Jennifer Scoullar.
Scoullar presents us with a set of characters that easily capture our sense of curiosity. From the twins, Harry and Tom, through to their grandmother and love interest Emma, this is a vibrant character set. Scoullar definitely ignited some strong feelings in me while I was reading The Lost Valley. I felt an incredible sense of regret for the twins and their divided relationship. Scoullar presents this dynamic well, tapping into their rivalry, jealously and favouritism that defines this twin relationship. It can be sobering at times, but we need to realise not all twin relationships are connective. Tensions are thrown into the mix with the interactions of love interest Emma and later a troubled Hollywood starlet who steals Tom’s heart. Emma’s story was just as beguiling as the two boys. The decisions Emma makes in her life, the sacrifices she makes and the devotion to demonstrates to her family offers up plenty for the reader to discover.
Those who are not familiar with the storytelling of Jennifer Scoullar, will soon be aware of her passion for conservation. The Lost Valley embodies Scoullar’s rich enthusiasm for extending our appreciation for Australia’s natural world. Within this tale, we are provided with a remarkable side story involving the destruction of the now extinct Tasmanian tiger, along with a set of other endangered species. This was by far my absolute highlight of the book and it is so well done. The sequences involving Emma’s connection to Beaumaris Zoo, its key figures and eventual downfall was enlightening, but so sad to read. It had me immediately trawling the web for more information on subject area.
Connected to the history of Beaumaris Zoo and the loss of one of Tasmania’s most iconic native animals, the Tasmanian tiger, is the placement of the ‘lost valley’ itself. This aspect of the narrative was also completely consuming. It reminded me in parts of The Hunter, a film about the search for the Tasmanian tiger that I enjoyed very much. This angle of the book really allows Scoullar to sink her teeth into issues of development, mining and the general environmental impacts on progress. The message Scoullar conveys through her book really works well to highlight the issues of contention for Tasmania both in the past and today. We must do all we can to protect this pristine environment.
I do hope we are able to revisit Tasmania again through another deftly woven tale from Jennifer Scoullar, a storyteller I admire greatly. If you haven’t discovered this golden nugget I do hope I have drawn your attention to this absolutely stunning rendition to Tasmania and its ecological historical history. This is also one fans of family sagas, historical fiction, romance and World War II do not want to miss.
The Lost Valley by Jennifer Scoullar was published on 27th August 2018 by Pilyara Press. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Lost Valley, Jennifer Scoullar, visit here.
*Thanks extended to the author, Jennifer Scoullar, for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Lost Valley is book #128 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge