It’s a cold, windy day in my part of south-eastern Australia. In the paddock opposite us the horses are wearing their winter blankets, and what’s left of the grass has turned crisp and dry. I should be outside, cutting down a stand of dead thistles, but there are more tempting things to do. Inside our cottage, the fire is blazing and I curl up on the sofa to finish the book I bought several weeks ago as a reward to myself for having met a big deadline.
It’s ironic that as a full-time writer, I have very little time left for reading. So when I do choose a book, it had better be good! And I'm delighted to tell you that Margareta Osborn’s latest novel, HOPE’S ROAD is a really good read. It hooked me from the very first scene where a six-year-old girl tries to clamber through a barbed wire fence into the neighbouring property and is startled by an old man pointing a gun at her and telling her in no uncertain terms to ‘get the hell off’ his farm. Then we meet the girl years later, all grown-up – Tammy McCauley, or 'Tim Tam' as her best friend calls her. This feisty young woman makes up one of the triumvirate of characters around whom the story is woven. The other two are an old curmudgeon by the name of Joe McCauley and an intriguing loner called Travis Hunter (whose surname matches the man’s job – he’s a dog trapper).
But the star of the book has to be Travis Hunter's young son, Billy – a good-hearted boy caught up in the detritus of a marriage break-up. The cast of supporting characters is as strong as the main protagonists. My favourite is Mrs Beatrice Parker, who just happens to be the town’s own Nosy Parker and speaks in rhyming aphorisms.
The writing is lucid, lyrical and sometimes gritty. Although HOPE'S ROAD could be characterised as a rural romance, it's so much more than that. Fans of the genre will love it, and those looking for serious issues simmering below the surface will find them too.
The backdrop of HOPE’S ROAD is the Gippsland landscape, described so lovingly you can almost hear the cry of the currawongs and smell the fragrance of the eucalypt forests. The setting will resonate with those of us who live in the country, while city dwellers, dreaming of a tree change, will find themselves totally beguiled.
HOPE’S ROAD is a great read that’s hard to put down.