All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Cowgirl by Anthea Hodgson

on March 6, 2018

The Cowgirl
Anthea Hodgson
Penguin Random House AUS
2018, 358p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Teddy Broderick has lived on her farm almost all her life, committed to the rhythms of the country – seeding, harvest, shearing and the twice daily milking of the cow her grandmother has looked after for years, but she dreams of another life, in the wide world away from the confines of her property.

She thinks she knows her home and its community inside out, until her grandmother Deirdre announces there is a house buried on the property, and Will Hastings, an archaeologist, is coming to dig it up again.

As they work together to expose Deirdre’s past to the light, the stories they tell bring them together and pull Teddy further away from her home.

But what is hidden in Deirdre’s childhood house that she needs to see again before she dies – and why? What is it that stops Teddy from living the life she truly wants? And will she ever find her freedom?

I read The Drifter, Anthea Hodgson’s first novel late last year and absolutely loved it so this was one of my highly anticipated 2018 releases. It’s loosely linked to that first novel, set in the same area with a few crossover characters. Teddy’s grandmother Deirdre is a larger than life character in The Drifter and fans of her will be happy to see her background explored in this novel.

Teddy grew up on the family farm and returned after a year at university. With the death of her father, Teddy helps keep the family farm ticking over, especially now that her brother is dividing his time between farming the family land and also the farm belonging to his wife’s family. There’s always fencing, shearing, milking to be done and Teddy’s quiet, somewhat reclusive existence is disturbed only when her grandmother hires one of her friend’s relatives, archeologist Will, to dig up her childhood home which is buried on the farm. Teddy didn’t even know of this house’s existence until Will arrived and she doesn’t know why Deirdre is so interested in unearthing it now.

I love the relationship between Teddy and Deirdre in this book, even though it’s not really a sort of typical grandmother – granddaughter relationship. Deirdre is a very brusque, almost sour sort of woman, very no-nonsense and not given to flights of fancy or whims generally, which makes her sudden desire to dig up the old house even more unusual. She and Teddy maintain separate residences, but close by and as the book moves on, you can see that in her own way, Deirdre is very much protecting Teddy from something – that the farm itself and Teddy’s continued residence there is doing the same sort of thing.

Will disturbs this dynamic with his fresh attitude, his exciting career and the potential to travel around the globe. He also seems to see Teddy astonishingly clearly very quickly but their ‘friendship’ is quite an up and down one. They have moments of bonding but also moments where Will appears to push Teddy’s buttons, to push her. Will makes Teddy think about things she’d rather not think about, like the life she’d rather be living, the hopes and dreams she had for herself. It’s a slow reveal for why Teddy has almost exiled herself to the family farm, why she hides herself away and it was quite a powerful but also a very relatable story. Teddy has become comfortable in this existence but now that longing has been awakened inside of her for something more than just the family farm. It’ll take courage and strength to make the choice to step outside of those boundaries again.

I really enjoyed the time the book spent exploring Deirdre’s youth – actually, I could’ve read an entire book centred on Deirdre. Her troubled childhood with an alcoholic and abusive father, the pain over her mother, her closeness with her sister and then ultimately what happened between her and Vivian as well as the decisions Deirdre made as a young adult. Her life was as fascinating as it was sad, although Deirdre’s stoic personality shone through in every sense. She kept getting up even after things happened to knock her back down, she persevered and she survived. Her often abrupt personality became so much more understandable the more I came to know of her. She reminds me a lot of my own Nan in a way – a woman who can also be quite abrupt and who has probably made herself that way because of things that have happened in her own past.

I started this quite late in the day yesterday – I’d read about 3 pages at school pick up (and giggled my way through them. I do like a meet-cute and the way that Will and Teddy meet is really amusing) before one of the other parents parked next to me for a chat and then I didn’t come back to it until after dinner. I ended up racing through it so quickly, finishing it up in one sitting whilst my husband took the kids out for a bike ride and the house was lovely and quiet. It’s a very engaging story from start to finish, full of mysteries (Teddy’s self-imposed isolation, Deirdre’s past, the secrets the buried house is keeping, even Will’s background) and amazing characters that you find yourself becoming very attached to almost like they’re a part of your own family. The small community feel is very strong in this book with afternoon teas, knitting circles and friends who would do anything for each other and that have supported each other for years. It’s also nice to get a sneaky glimpse of Cate (from The Drifter) and in a few sentences you get a full picture of how her life is these days. As that reader who always wants a little more, that’s something I always appreciate.

With two books, Anthea Hodgson has cemented herself as an auto buy author for me and a really strong new voice in rural fiction. I love her intricate family relationships, her building of community and the way in which her characters are beautifully complex.

8/10

Book #43 of 2018

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