Title: Stars Over the Southern Ocean
Author: J.H. Fletcher
Published: June 15th 2020
Publisher: Mira – AU
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
A sweeping Australian saga of one woman’s impossible choice between family and freedom.
With her home and freedom on the line, will her family force her to leave it all behind?
1937 – Seventeen year old Marina Fairbrother has lived in the small logging town of Mole Creek, Tasmania, her whole life. When she meets Jory Trevelyan, she is intrigued by the young man with the strange name and his tales of the west coast. Stories of wild winds and a tumultuous sea leave her hungering for a freedom she hadn’t realised she lacked.
1993 – After a terminal diagnosis, Marina knows there is only one place she wants to spend her remaining days. The remote coastal property of Noamunga has been her home for the past fifty years. Her memories are imprinted on the walls of the house and the rocks of the cliffs. Here she raised their three children, loved deeply, survived a war, worked hard, grieved deeply and lived a good life.
But there are forces that threaten to pull her away from her beloved home. Daughters whose well-intentioned concerns hide selfish ambition, a son who puts his future in the hands of the wrong people, and an oil company intent on striking oil just off the coast of her land.
Stars Over the Southern Ocean is the latest family saga title from Australian author J.H. Fletcher. A sprawling tale that unfurls via two narratives, themes of love, loss, happiness, sadness, relationships, loyalty, possession and entitlement all come into play during this eventful sojourn. Stars Over the Southern Ocean was an engrossing story and another great addition to the J.H. Fletcher collection.
Spanning the years 1937 through to 1993, Stars Over the Southern Ocean introduces lead character Marina. We are first acquainted with Marina as a seventeen year old girl, living in Mole Creek, a close knit logging community in Tasmania. When Marina encounters Jory Trevelyan her life changes dramatically. Marina leaves Mole Creek for the wild west coast of Tasmania. It is here that Marina learns about the values of love, life and family. Decades later in 1993, Marina faces her own mortality. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, Marina has only one wish, to live out her last remaining days in this world on the remote property of Noamunga, the only place that feels like home. As Marina reflects on her very full life as illness takes hold, she must deal with a number of difficult situations engulfing her family. From ambition, greed, ill choices and restriction, Marina must do all she can settle these family grievances before she says goodbye.
It is always a pleasure to be able to read and review a new J.H. Fletcher title. I have been a fan of Fletcher’s work since I read Dust of the Land. I have religiously picked up each new title as it has been released and I genuinely look forward to immersing myself in a new saga from this talented Australian storyteller. Stars Over the Southern Ocean was another utterly engrossing novel from a writer I have really come to embrace over the years.
I really love the structure J.H. Fletcher takes to his books. The dual timeline narrative works well in Stars Over the Southern Ocean. Despite the fairly expansive timeline this novel takes, the reader is always of Fletcher’s central concern and he grounds the audience very easily in the era in which he is conveying through his writing. I enjoyed travelling with Marina, Fletcher’s lead, from the 1930s through the decades. To follow a protagonist from the early stages of their life through to the end of their life is quite involving and emotional. I found this was the case in Stars Over the Southern Ocean, I was truly swept up in Marina’s trials and tribulations.
As this is a family saga, there are some great dynamics that arise in this story. It was a nice progression to follow Marina’s coming of age story, through to her romance, marriage, family life and later years. Thrown in the mix are settlement issues, family stresses, war and even economic strains this family unit must contend with. In the modern day sequences we are given a bird’s eye view of the impact of pure greed, betrayal, suppression, ambition and land control issues. Each of these complexities is presented with an air of insight, honesty and interest.
For me, the true highlight of any J.H. Fletcher story is without a doubt the setting. In the case of Stars Over the Southern Ocean, Tasmania is the front and centre of this narrative, providing a stunning Australian backdrop to the interplay between the characters in this story, with Marina always based at the axis point of these happenings. We are also given a few cosmopolitan international destinations to bask in as the narrative unfolds. From India to Thailand, this is a colourful and flavoursome tale. I enjoyed this aspect of the novel a great deal.
Let Marina, J.H. Fletcher’s engaging lead, consume your thoughts for a weekend or over a few nights, as you follow this determined soul’s life journey. Stars Over the Southern Ocean is a touching Australian saga and a novel that I am happy to recommend.
Stars Over the Southern Ocean by J.H. Fletcher was published on 15th June 2020 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.