All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Out Of Alice by Kerry McGinnis

on March 28, 2016

Out of AliceOut Of Alice
Kerry McGinnis
Penguin Books AUS
2016, 382p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

From the bestselling author of Pieces of Blue and Wildhorse Creekcomes an evocative and heartfelt story about how in the remotest of places lives can be lost…and found.

When Sara Blake takes up a position as governess on Redhill Station in Central Australia, she isn’t expecting to encounter a family in crisis, or to uncover a tragedy of her own.

With the owners’ son critically ill, Sara is called upon to take care of their young daughter. As the family struggles to make a living from the drought-stricken land, everyone pitches in – and Sara finds herself letting people in to the empty spaces in her heart.

But the longer she spends out bush, the more she becomes plagued by elusive visions of her dark and troubled childhood. The fragments of memory lead her deep into the red centre of Australia, where at picturesque Kings Canyon she must confront the horrifying secrets of her past.

This is the second Kerry McGinnis novel I’ve read (the other being Tracking North) and I love her settings. She definitely puts the ‘rural’ into rural lit, choosing more remote locations. I’ve never been to the Northern Territory so I was really excited to read this one.

Sara’s journey from Mildura involves travelling to Alice Springs, then a bus trip to Charlotte Creek and then a drive of a couple of hours to Redhill Farm, owned by married couple Len and Beth. It’s a harsh landscape, one that can be very unforgiving. When Sara arrives to take up a position as a governess, the area is in the grip of drought and most of the concerns locally revolve around water – how to get more of it, where you might be able to sink a bore, how much you need to keep X many head of cattle alive and lastly and most importantly, when it might actually rain.

The remote location doesn’t bother Sara – she’s fleeing something and the further away from society the better. She feels surprised to feel at home in the bush, although it’s beginning to stir up memories that have been long suppressed. The longer she spends at Redhill, the more these memories creep in, making her question everything she’d ever been told about her childhood.

I love the setting and I think Kerry McGinnis did a fantastic job showcasing what life is like in such a remote location. Sara is stunned to find out that they’re not on the electricity grid (although having driven hours to get there from a tiny town, she probably shouldn’t have been), the mail comes once a week and the children do school using School of the Air. Sara’s primary role is governess to Becky, making sure she does her schoolwork and taking care of her when her mother has to take Becky’s brother Sam to Alice Springs for chemotherapy and treatments. Their father works long days maintaining the family property so Sara is occasionally in charge of cooking and doing a few other things but mostly she’s there to help Becky. Sara and Becky develop a very strong relationship – Becky often feels left out, a bit less valued and appreciated because she’s not sick. Sam is sick, so he gets a lot of extra attention and concern, particularly from his mother and I think this was a very sensitive look at what it might be like to be the healthy, but slightly ignored sibling, simply because they are so healthy and don’t require that extra attention, that careful watching. Being so remote, they do have to keep an eye on Sam and get on top of anything right away because they need the Flying Doctor to be able to get them to the hospital.

I was intrigued about the reason that had brought Sara to Redhill and was interested to see it play out. It wasn’t at all what I expected and although I did enjoy Sara rediscovering her memories and learning about her past, I still feel as though there were a few holes that weren’t really addressed as satisfactorily as I would’ve liked. It required a bit of a stretch of the imagination at times. I found that as it unfolded, I lost interest in it a bit – it was more interesting when it was still a mystery than when some of those major things were revealed.

My favourite part of the book I think was the friendship between Jack, brother of Beth who helps out on Redhill a lot and Sara. It’s very understated, something that is allowed to develop and mature slowly over the course of the book. Sara comes to place a lot of trust in him and I loved the way in which they became so close. Jack was a great character, a real ‘jack of all trades’ and one of the first to welcome Sara to the new area and help her out when she realised just how isolated the place she’d arrived in was. She confides in him when her memories start to return and he’s quite protective of her when a stranger comes looking for.

All in all, this was a good read, something that easily occupied me for an afternoon.


Book #57 of 2016


Out Of Alice is book #22 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: