Oh, how I love this author’s writing. Last year I read Frew’s latest book Islands ( see my review https://wp.me/p6dnoA-lB ) and searched for Hope Farm which was shortlisted for the Stella Prize in 2016.
Set in 1985, we’re introduced to Silver a thirteen-year old girl who follows her mother, Ishtar and her latest love, Miller to country Victoria – Hope Farm – a hippie commune. Miller is full of blustering bravado about living off the land and life on the farm is anything other than basic. The local townsfolk look at them with suspicion. ‘Ishtar glanced up and down and then started to cross the broad black expanse, boots ringing. I followed, feeling the eyes from the pub.’
Silver finds a friend in Ian who lives on the farm next door and as loners, they’re thrown together. ‘There was an old-man quality to him I found comical: the frail body, the stalk-like legs, the desert boots planted in the grass.’
Silver tries to navigate herself, largely alone into her teenage years, yearning for her mother’s love and attention. ‘The worker said something and Ishtar put back her head in a laugh that seemed to puncture the clouds overhead, the light catching her long throat, and I throbbed with reluctant pride. She was amazing. She could gild the edges of even miserable, freezing, grey Hope.
And I’d wanted her, too – or more of her, anyway.’
The narration from Silver is from an adult’s point of view, looking back and examining what happened at Hope Farm and how it shaped her forever.
In between Silver’s story is another, in diary form by a young unmarried girl, thrown out of home by her parents for being pregnant. The diary is sparse, filled with spelling mistakes but conveys the world of being an unwed mother in the seventies where keeping your baby was considered unacceptable.
This is a moving story of love and secrets, beautifully written. Another fantastic Australian writer does it again. Highly recommended.