All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Flame Tree Hill – Mandy Magro

on May 24, 2013

Flame Tree HillFlame Tree Hill
Mandy Magro
Penguin AU
2013, 272p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

After three years overseas, Kirsty Mitchell is ready to return home, to her family’s cattle property in northern Queensland, Flame Tree Hill. Looking to forget a tragedy in her past, Kirsty has spent some time away from home because it was too painful to stay but she’s had enough of travel and of London winters and now she’s come home to work on the farm again.

Also living on the farm is Kirsty’s teen crush Aden who has also been a way for a while. Aden studied to be a vet in the city, married and then separated and has now returned to the area to set up a mobile vet clinic, living with Kirsty and his best friend, who also happens to be her older brother in a cottage on Flame Tree Hill’s land. Kirsty has always had feelings for Aden but she was never confident enough to voice them – not to mention there’s something else she’s never told Aden. However she’s taken by surprise at the fact that Aden seems just as attracted to her as she is to him. They’re just slowly getting it together, exploring a new relationship when Kirsty is given terrible news.

She has aggressive breast cancer and must begin chemotherapy. Aden stands by her, the perfect boyfriend, always there to help her when she needs it but the deeper Kirsty gets into treatment, the more difficulty she has relating to Aden and their relationship. It’s taking so much out of her just fighting this disease that she doesn’t know if she has anything left for anyone else. Add in a couple of hard knocks along the way and Kirsty finds herself struggling to see her future. She doesn’t want to hurt Aden by leaving him behind and so she decides to put herself first. But has she made the right choice? And will Aden still be around if she realises that she’s done the wrong thing?

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I think it’s fantastic that Mandy Magro is tackling breast cancer and making it a real issue in one of her books. She doesn’t choose a minor character (although interestingly enough there are several other cancer sufferers in this book) but she gives the disease to her main character, the very young and unlikely Kirsty. The process of finding out and the treatment and Kirsty’s feelings all seemed quite real to me and very well done. The chemo, the sickness, the weakness, the pain, the emotions she goes through, from feeling anger, depression, hopelessness, to wanting to fight all seems very consistent with real life experiences that I’ve read. I felt for her, it’s not something you expect to happen to you, especially at her age. Although not unheard of, it is rare to get breast cancer in your twenties. Kristy feels as though the cancer is a payback, for something that happened when she was younger. She goes between being petrified of dying, of railing against the cancer to believing that it must inevitably be her fate to die.

To be honest, the romance in this one didn’t interest me too much. Aden was far too nice, he was basically perfect with not a flaw to be seen. He was good looking, smart, kind, supportive, the perfect boyfriend in every way especially through her sickness. He ran her bubblebaths, organised romantic picnics, brought her native flowers, never once got frustrated or had second thoughts. Their relationship was in its very fledgling stages when her cancer was diagnosed but Aden was clearly in for the long haul. He was unbothered by her changing appearance, he complimented her and tried to boost her. All this was lovely but the fact that he was so lacking in flaws made him not real to me. He was more a cardboard cutout of a boyfriend than an actual boyfriend. Even when Kirsty tells him something horrible, he only half reacts.

And here I come to my problem with this book, and it’s a big one. In order to not spoil it, I’m going to be rather vague. Kirsty confesses something about her past and basically everyone is shocked for three minutes and then they all get over it and nothing is ever really said about it, nor is it addressed in any satisfying way. Now it could be argued that Kirsty’s guilt has punished her enough and what point would there be to go further? I argue that where do you draw the line with that? There are rules and regulations for a reason and you can’t just break them and not tell anyone but it’s ok because you feel really bad about it. I’m sure that’d be a fabulous defence for people charged with major crimes. “Sorry your Honour, I didn’t mean to do it and I’ve felt very bad about it ever since”. I do not feel that this was a satisfactory way to address something quite major at all. And what Kirsty does is something that I have zero tolerance for and the lackadaisical ‘oh we’ve all done it’ attitude was well, pretty disgusting. It definitely affected the way in which I felt about Kirsty and about the rest of the characters and about this book. I think there are lines for what characters can do and this was crossing that line.


Book #122 of 2013


Flame Tree Hill is book #52 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013


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