#aww2019 · 2019 Reviews · Australian · book bingo · historical fiction

#Book Bingo 2019 Round 24 BONUS ROUND: ‘Book by an author with same initials as you’- Stillwater Creek by Alison Booth

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Book Bingo 2019 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite bloggers, Theresa Smith Writes and The Book Muse. Each Saturday, on a fortnightly basis, beginning on Saturday 5th January 2019, Ashleigh, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The Book Bingo 2019 card contains a total of 30 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year, with the aim to complete the whole card by the end of December. Two of the Book Bingo entries this year will be flexible, so that means it is completely down us as to when we post these entries, to ensure all 30 are ticked off by the end of the year. Do keep an eye out on our respective blog sites for our bonus round entries!  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, there is no crossover – that is planned anyway! However, as Ashleigh, Theresa and I enjoy similar books, especially books by Australian women writers, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we end up with more than one book double up, as was the case in 2018! 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, tagging us on social media, or by visiting The Book Muse and Theresa Smith Writes.


Alison Booth’s dazzling debut, set in a beautiful coastal town of NSW, is an unforgettable,stillwater creek small heart-warming novel about love and loss, betrayal and hope…

Alison Booth’s dazzling debut, set in a beautiful coastal town of NSW, is an unforgettable, heart-warming novel about love and loss, betrayal and hope…

It’s 1957 and, after the death of her husband, pianist Ilona Talivaldis and her nine-year-old daughter Zidra, travel to the remote coastal town of Jingera in New South Wales. Ilona, a concentration camp survivor from Latvia, is searching for peace and the opportunity to start anew. In her beautiful vine-covered cottage on the edge of the lagoon, she has plans to set herself up as a piano teacher.

The weeks pass, and slowly mother and daughter get to know the townsfolk – including kind-hearted butcher George Cadwallader, who is forever gazing at the stars; his son, Jim, a boy wise beyond his years; Peter Vincent, former wartime pilot and prisoner-of-war; and Cherry Bates, the publican’s wife who is about to make a horrifying discovery…

For Jingera is not quite the utopia Ilona imagines it to be – and at risk is the one thing Ilona holds dear…

Review:

‘Maybe it would be possible to forget the past and start a new life in Jingera, this sanctuary by the sea.’

Stillwater Creek is a 2010 publication from Australian author Alison Booth. The first book in a three part series, Stillwater Creek is an engaging tale of survival, loss, grief, new beginnings, the past and secrets. Set in the rich and picturesque township of a Jingera, in rural NSW, it closely follows the lives of six residents of this country based locale.

Stillwater Creek takes us back to the year 1957. A woman who suffered the horrors of World War II comes to the safe waters of Australia and settles in Jingera, with her young daughter. These Latvian refugees are hoping to find a sense of solace and a new start in the tiny coastal township. Ilona is also suffering from the loss of her husband and she is ready to put the wounds of war behind her when she arrives in Jingera. As mother and daughter begin to take tentative steps towards settling into this very different new home, they become acquainted with the eclectic townsfolk of Jingera. Stillwater Creek is also the accompanying and compelling stories of four other residents. From the local butcher, his son, a farmer and the local publican. Before this story is out, the secrets, pasts and confronting truths of these figures surface, with explosive results.

I have had Stillwater Creek lingering on my full to-be-read bookshelves since 2012. I recall being attracted to the cover of this book, as I do appreciate a good rural Australian novel. I was finally able to dust this one off my shelves and utilise it for this current round of Book Bingo 2019. Stillwater Creek qualifies as a book written by an author with the same initials as me. Alison Booth is the author of Stillwater Creek and the following two books in the series. This novel represents the second piece of writing I have read by Alison Booth.

I was immediately drawn to the two characters that spark the beginning of Stillwater Creek. I felt a strong sense of sympathy for the Latvian mother and daughter. I just wish there was further exploration into their past, I craved more. I was keen to find out about their experiences of war, I was definitely drawn to their ordeal. Further sadness and loss engulfs this broken family, as the loss of their husband and father figure is felt with deep pain. I think Booth did a good job of conveying the sense of loss this family has had to endure. It is a wound that cut deep for me.

Stillwater Creek initially appears as a mirage, a refuge for this displaced family. It is full of promise and fresh beginnings. However, as the story progresses, Booth exposes a town full of prejudices, racial discrimination, sordid secrets, abuse, unhappy unions, unfulfilled lives, broken pasts and traumatic childhoods. This glimpse into our not too distant past is delivered with a sense of authenticity. My own grandparents came to Australia’s shores at just a few short years after the time this book is set, full of positives expectations and opportunity. I think Booth captures this feeling well. However, what she also succeeds in is conveying the moral and social codes of this time. Stillwater Creek is punctuated by dialogue that is now considered offensive and discriminatory, but the community barely batted an eyelid at the time, these colloquialisms were acceptable in the Australia’s social sphere. Although I enjoyed the sense of nostalgia of this stripped back and simpler time, the attitudes of the lay person did get to me.

Booth’s book is filled with strong descriptions of the unique and very Australian based landscape of Jingera. The reader is able to carefully insert themselves in the atmosphere and surrounds of this slice of Australia, thanks to Booth’s prose. I feel this was one of the best features of Stillwater Creek and Booth has the storytelling prowess to transport the reader to such a picturesque locale.

‘Catching sight of the view from the window next to the stove, she held her breath. There was so much space in front of her, so much space. George was saying something about the ice chest but she couldn’t speak, she couldn’t listen. Beyond the lagoon, now the colour of pewter, lay a strip of olive-green bushland and beyond that again was the dark blue of the ocean smudging into the paler washed-out blue of the late afternoon sky.’

Stillwater Creek is defined by a full and involving narrative, engulfing the reader in a bevy of drama, secrets, past histories, heartbreak, problems and issues of contention. There are glimmers of hope and redemption, which arise in the latter stages of the novel. Booth carefully ties up the threads of Stillwater Creek, while also leading her audience into book two, The Indigo Sky. I purchased this whole series some years ago and I feel lucky to have these novels on hand to complete my reading experience of Alison Booth’s arresting collection.

*** 3.5 stars

Stillwater Creek by Alison Booth was published on 1st May 2010 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Stillwater Creek, Alison Booth, visit here.

Stillwater Creek is book #144 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge

6 thoughts on “#Book Bingo 2019 Round 24 BONUS ROUND: ‘Book by an author with same initials as you’- Stillwater Creek by Alison Booth

  1. My curiosity has been laid to rest lol, been wondering for a while which author you’d choose with the same initials as you. Sounds like a good book, I’ll check to see if I have that one once I’m home. To match my initials I chose Sue Grafton (read that one a while ago). Round 24 I’ve marked off Prize Winning Book – finally I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird. I wanted to mark off two books for this round but alas, it didn’t happen, holidays are to blame 😁

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    1. Lol, I’m glad you were intrigued and your curiosity has been laid to rest now! Sue Grafton is a great choice, so many books, she has the same first name too, very close choice! The book I chose has been on my shelves since I first started the markets, back in 2012, I recall getting this book at the book fair. I purchased the other two in the series, which I do hope to get to at some point! I hope you are making the most of your holidays, don;t worry about the challenge and bingo rounds, do what you can! I love that you read To Kill a Mockingbird for your prize book! I also have that category left for my last round, then the wrap up post begins.

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  2. Great choice Amanda. Same initials and also an Australian author. I found this one hard but the author I did find, through Amazon, has some gorgeous stories and I will probably read some more of her books now.

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    1. Many thanks and happy book bingo to you for yesterday! This one was a hard category, I agree! I delayed it until the end of the challenge! Glad you were able to use Amazon to search for a book, sounds like a lucky find! I do hope you enjoy the rest of the author’s work. I used what was on my very full tbr shelves, it was a nice feeling to say goodbye to a long term resident!

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      1. I’ve also enjoyed searching my shelves for books that fit. I only purchased two. The other was Seven Little Australians that I was going to use for set in the mountains but I found whilst reading it was set in Sydney.

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