All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Silver Clouds – Fleur McDonald

on May 25, 2013

SIlver CloudsSilver Clouds
Fleur McDonald
Allen & Unwin
2013, 406p
Read from my local library

Several years ago Tessa Mathison fled Australia and her family for London where she began working at a marketing firm. Tessa got into partying a little too much and when she receives word that she needs to return to Australia to attend the funeral of her beloved great aunt, it comes at a good time. Tessa has committed an indiscretion that if her boss finds out, will surely result in her being sacked.

Tessa’s childhood home is Danjar Plains but it’s not somewhere that holds fond memories and Tessa has avoided it for many years. However Aunty Spider has left Tessa a letter, asking Tessa to be the one to go through her small cottage and take charge of her belongings. Tessa doesn’t want to stay but her boss has found out, she’s been fired and she really has no where else to go and nothing else to do. Aunty Spider hints at a family scandal, a secret but Tessa digs and digs and finds little. She’s overcome by memories and finds herself settling back in better than she thought. The Nullabor is getting under her skin again.

Tessa is finally facing the problems of her partying lifestyle and channeling her energies into sorting through her aunt’s belongings and cataloguing the family history. Smooth and charming Brendan McKenzie proves to be an interesting diversion but does he hold the key to her future? Or is it neighbour Harrison Brooks, not a candidate at first meeting, who will be able to convince Tessa that here is where she needs to be?

Although she grew up on a farm, Tessa Mathison went to boarding school at age 12 and then University. Once she graduated she went overseas to London to begin her marketing career so she’s much more a city girl than a country girl. She’s forgotten the ways of the land and has been concentrating far too much on drinking, partying and sleeping with anyone who shows her some attention. The death of her beloved great aunt is the only thing that calls her home, although Tessa is also wracked with guilt that she won’t be able to make amends to her Aunt Spider. Tessa has been carrying a weight around with her for some time and it’s something she hasn’t healed from. When she realises that her aunt has planned to keep her around for a while, Tessa doesn’t want to undertake the task. But she loved her aunt far too much to refuse a wish of hers.

Tessa has an obvious drinking problem but she doesn’t face it until she’s been home for some time. Alcohol has become a crutch to her, something that she belts back to get herself through uncomfortable situations. She begins making the effort to overcome this, cutting back her drinking to zero, even when she’s desperate for a drink. She’s only 24 and the fact that she does recognise it’s becoming a problem and seeks to change it, is great. I liked that she took matters into her own hands and she knew what she had to do before she got too far. Although reluctant to surround herself with her aunt’s things in her aunt’s home, she does it anyway and she throws herself into it. Soon she becomes invested in finding the answers to the mystery that her aunt hints at, some sort of family scandal. It was interesting to see things through her aunt’s eyes – she came to the area when she was very young, when people had to rely on the Afghan cameleers to bring supplies. There were no roads then, no way to truck in supplies like sugar, coffee, even things like clothes and books. It made for an interesting story and through her letters, diaries and Tessa’s memories, the character of the deceased Aunt Spider really came alive. She sounded like an amazing woman and I could well see Tessa’s utter devotion to her and her concern about how Tessa was fairing in London and with her burden of guilt.

While those things were done well in the novel, the romance was, unfortunately, severely underdeveloped. It’s not particularly a triangle, although Tessa is drawn to self-confessed ‘bad boy’ Brendan McKenzie at first, who is charming and good looking and up for some fun. She comes to realise though that he’s perhaps not the best option and it is Harrison Brooks, the manager of the neighbouring property, that fills her thoughts. Harrison is 16 years older than Tessa, which didn’t bother me at all. Tessa needs grounding, someone mature and probably settled. But their interactions are rather limited and what could’ve been explored as an unlikely attraction wasn’t. There was endless potential to develop an attraction, a fledgling romance and there were also any number of issues that could’ve been used as bumps in the road. Harrison has little liking or respect for Tessa upon meeting her because she’s rude to him at the airport when he picks her up and she hooks up with McKenzie almost right away. I really would’ve liked them to interact more than they did because I could see where the author was going I think, but it just needed that little bit more for me to really sink my teeth into it. The ending felt rather rushed and out of nowhere.

Despite this slight disappointment, I did really enjoy the story that unfolded in Silver Clouds and also the character development that Tessa underwent. Her determination to overcome her tendency to turn to alcohol and to also knuckle down and get to the bottom of the family mystery and reconnect with her aunt, even though her aunt was no longer with her, was an easy story to sink into.


Book #134 of 2013


Silver Clouds is the 58th novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013


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