Monday, October 1, 2007

Silver Wattle by Belinda Alexandra

In fear for their lives after the sudden death of their mother, Adela and Klara must flee Prague to find refuge with their uncle in Australia. Later, Adela becomes a film director at a time when the local industry is starting to feel the competition from Hollywood.

But even as success is imminent, the issues of family and an impossible love are never far away. And ultimately dreams of the silver screen must compete with the bonds of a lifetime …

Silver Wattle confirms Belinda Alexandra as one of our foremost storytellers. Weaving fact into inspiring fiction with great flair and imagination, this is a novel as full of hope, glamour and heartbreak as the film industry itself.

This is Australian author Belinda Alexandra's third book. Of the previous two, I have had White Gardenia sitting on my bookshelves for at least a couple of years (I originally bought it because Paullina Simons gave the cover quote), but still haven't managed to read it. The second book was called Wild Lavender, and was set in France during WWII. I liked it well enough, but I am really pleased to say that I really enjoyed this one more.

Our story starts in Prague, in the every day life of two sisters, Adela and Klara. They live the well to do lifestyle of the relatively wealthy with their mother and step father. Klara is showing promise to be a concert pianist, but it seems as though her studies must be put on hold when the two sisters have to flee Prague and travel to Australia to start a new life with their uncle and his Indian wife, knowing that they will not be able to return to Prague until they have both reached 21 years of age, when they will be able to claim their fortunes.

As the two girls grow up in a far off land, Adela becomes involved in the Australian silent movie industry, firstly by becoming a production assistant and later becoming the director herself, with the support of some unlikely backers. Her uncle also gets involved in the film industry by managing the local cinemas. Along the way Adela falls in love, has to deal with mental illness of someone close to her at a time when psychiatry was very much in its infancy, both girls face more changes and disappointments as they fight for their dreams, and triumphs over her trials along the way. But those very triumphs bring danger back into the girls lives and lead to another tragedy in their lives.

With cameo appearances by several famous Aussies of the day, for example, May Gibbs who was the author of many books including Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (which I remember reading when I was a young girl), mentions of some of the iconic moments in Australian history, and a really good sense of time and place, the glamour and excitement of the film industry, of the 1920s and the author's love for the Australian bush and its creatures really shone through the pages of this book.

A really enjoyable read!

Rating 4.5/5

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