Allen & Unwin
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Amelia Bennett has finished university and returned to her small home town. She’s living on her parents farm and working doing the books for them and for other local farmers. She’s also become involved with the rodeo committee and was surprised and thrilled to be elected treasurer. The rest of the committee have been serving for a very long time and Amelia has lots of fresh and new ideas to broadcast the event far and wide, particularly by utilising social media.
After the resounding success, it’s Amelia’s job to get the takings to the bank. It’s a lot of money and Amelia is nervous, especially when she can’t get the amount of escorts that she’d really prefer. On the way, she’s the victim of a terrifying carjack, assaulted and the money stolen. Amelia is left tasered on the side of the road and she’s devastated when she realises that the money is gone. As a teenager, Amelia had a bit of reputation as being careless, or a bit bubble-headed and she’s determined to prove herself. There were people who didn’t approve of her appointment and now Amelia feels as though she’s just confirmed their reservations and let a lot of people down. She’s even more upset when she realises that she’s even considered a suspect by some, masterminding the attack on herself to throw people off the scent.
Although she knows that she’s innocent, Amelia can’t help wondering if someone that she knows might be guilty. Local thefts have people concerned and it has to be someone with local knowledge. Amelia guiltily even finds herself suspecting people close to her. There’s a detective in town to investigate all of the thefts but it might just be up to Amelia to find the evidence needed to discover the culprit.
Emerald Springs is Fleur McDonald’s sixth book and is set in country South Australia. Amelia is a young graduate who is determined to prove herself as a new, responsible adult back in her home town. She’s on the verge of being engaged to a young man named Paul who is doing his absolute best to turn his family farm around which his father ran into the ground. Amelia is excited to move forward with Paul, for them to be together properly but Paul desperately wants things to be right before Amelia can move in with him. Amelia also faces the obstacle of her mother’s disapproval, who clearly seems to think Paul will turn out like his father.
The beginning of Amelia’s stint as treasurer of the rodeo committee doesn’t go well when the car she is driving is forced to stop and thieves both assault her and steal all of the money. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Amelia – people change and she was desperate to shed the image she’d acquired as a teenager and prove herself as worthy and responsible now. The way in which some people were critical of her reeked of both small-town judgement and also sexism, from some of the older farmers/workers. Amelia is a big vague – she forgets meetings sometimes because she’s caught up dreaming for her future and she could’ve taken more safety precautions when transporting the money but at the same time, she could never have really foreseen what would happen and chances are, it wouldn’t have prevented it anyway. It’s possible that more people would’ve ended up injured. After the accident she finds herself suspecting lots of different people, including even very fleetingly, the idea that perhaps her fiance Paul was involved. Amelia knows there was something about one of them, she just can’t remember what and it’s causing her to look at everyone suspiciously from Paul to her own brother to people she’s known forever.
I have to admit, I kind of like when authors fool me and Fleur McDonald managed that nicely here, because I thought I had it all figured out and turned out I didn’t! I really appreciated that because I didn’t see it coming but then when it was revealed, it was something that I didn’t have too much trouble believing and it just seemed to fit. I also really liked the way that the story touched on the roles of gender particularly within Amelia’s family. It’s clear that if not for her father, Amelia wouldn’t actually have a role on the farm at all and that everything is going to go to her brother, an idea that is really outdated in this day and age and yet still seems prevalent in farming circles. At times Amelia’s mother’s attitude towards her seemed really hostile and I found her quite frustrating. I think an attempt was made to justify this but I would’ve liked another scene between Amelia and her mother at the end.
I really enjoyed this book – it kept me engaged from the very first page and I was twisting my mind in knots trying to work everything out. I really appreciated the little side plot too of Dave, the detective who gets sent to investigate the local thefts and educate the community on how they can help prevent them in the future and his past with Amelia’s aunt who was a really fantastic character. Fleur McDonald obviously knows small country farming towns and I really felt the community as a whole, the good and the bad. Amelia is a fun character but with a thread of determination and grit underneath and I loved her core group of friends. Would love to see her cousin Chelle get a book at some stage! This was a fabulous story from an author whose books I’ve really come to love and I always appreciate the depth to them and the way that they attempt to showcase rural life, warts and all.
Book #60 of 2015
Emerald Springs is book #21 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015