There was a lot of in-the-field research done this month with a visit to Far North Queensland for my new novel, The Palace Hotel.
My trip started in Cairns and then from there we drove through the Atherton Tablelands, then back down to the coast to Mission Beach, through Townsville and onto Airlie Beach and the beautiful Whitsunday Islands.
I explored cane fields, tropical rainforests and small historic towns, all the while imagining what it might have been like in 1948, for my protagonist, Ellen when she arrived in the fictitious cane field town of Sugar Creek looking for her cane-cutter, fiancé. I also wondered about my other character, young GP, Dr Dana Janssen and how she settled into this same town, fifty-two years later only to discover that nothing is as it seems. Surely, their paths cross?
Yes, it’s another dual time-line, dual character novel in the making.
A truly glorious trip of more than 700 kilometres with the added bonus of catching up with some friends at the end.It can’t be all work and no play and like the patrons of The Palace Hotel, one must enjoy a gin and tonic at the end of a long day. Scroll through the pics below for a little peak and watch out for more on the progress of my WIP, The Palace Hotel.
I thought I might have done a little more reading but travelling left me time for only one book and that was Still Life. Watch out for my review in August.
Until next month…
For more than eighty years and until 1929, in excess of two hundred thousand homeless children were put onto trains and sent out to the mid-west of America. The trains stopped at towns where adults were encouraged to ‘adopt’ and give a home and education to an orphan child. More often than not the children were used and abused and many were seen as little more than indentured servants. This is a little known part of American history and reminds us again how children are not always treated the way they should be. Sadly, history like this seems to continually repeat itself.
Orphan Train is about a ninety-one-year-old woman, Viv who befriends a seventeen-year-old girl, Molly, who herself has lived a life in foster care. She has been shunted around many foster families many of whom are well intentioned but can’t provide the stability and sense of love and belonging that Molly needs.
Viv tells Molly her story and the reader is taken back in time to the 1920’s when Viv was an orphan child. She had migrated with her parents and three siblings from Ireland to New York where the hardship described reminded me of Frank McCourt’s account of life as a migrant in Angela’s Ashes. A fire sweeps through the building and Viv (or Niamh as she was known by her birth family) is the only survivor. She is taken in by the Children’s Aid Society and placed on the train for eventual adoption.
The stories of both Viv and Molly are heartbreaking and moving. Molly, a Native Indian never feels she belongs and Viv is the same and this is where they truly understand one another. Viv, as a child trying to cope with her changed circumstances was particularly sad.
I wasn’t convinced about Viv’s life as an adult and this part fell a little short for me in some of its predictability. Molly’s back story around her heritage never really had the chance to be fully explored.
Nonetheless, it’s a wonderful story, beautifully written and researched.
Pic is courtesy of Goodreads