All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Lost Flowers Of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

on April 10, 2018

The Lost Flowers Of Alice Hart
Holly Ringland
Fourth Estate
2018, 373p
Copy courtesy Harper Collins AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The most enchanting debut novel of 2018, this is an irresistible, deeply moving and romantic story of a young girl, daughter of an abusive father, who has to learn the hard way that she can break the patterns of the past, live on her own terms and find her own strength.

After her family suffers a tragedy when she is nine years old, Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her estranged grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak. But Alice also learns that there are secrets within secrets about her past. Under the watchful eye of June and The Flowers, women who run the farm, Alice grows up. But an unexpected betrayal sends her reeling, and she flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. Alice thinks she has found solace, until she falls in love with Dylan, a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a story about stories: those we inherit, those we select to define us, and those we decide to hide. It is a novel about the secrets we keep and how they haunt us, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. Spanning twenty years, set between the lush sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert, Alice must go on a journey to discover that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.

What a stunning book this is.

And I mean that in two ways. The first is visually – it has one of the most beautiful covers I’ve seen in a long time. Those gorgeous Australian native flowers look amazing on that black. Some of my favourites are there too and it just makes you want to pick it up and touch it. And then when you start reading it’s even better.

Alice is a young girl at the beginning of the book, living with her mother and father in an isolated coastal house. Her mother finds solace in her garden. Alice’s innocent eyes paint a picture of her upbringing – she’s homeschooled, forbidden to leave the property and frequently the house seethes with the tension of her father’s anger. But there’s also her mother, who provides Alice with as much as she can given her own situation. When everything changes for Alice, her paternal grandmother comes for her, a woman that Alice has never even met. Grieving, shattered and traumatised, Alice goes to live on a native flower farm owned by her grandmother which provides refuge for women. Gradually she begins to learn her heritage and the language of flowers, something that has been passed down throughout the generations of females on her father’s side.

This is such a wonderful, engrossing story. I was struck from the very beginning what an old soul Alice appeared to be in the beginning of the book when she’s just a young child. She’s lived a very difficult life, the whole household subject to the whims and rages of her father, a seemingly bitter man who can’t control his temper. When Alice goes to live with her grandmother, we learn the stories of the women of the family, from her grandmother’s own grandmother onward through the generations to Alice. It’s amazing how often certain things were repeated throughout most, if not all, of the generations and how the women had to come to rely on other women in various ways with Alice’s grandmother going as far as to provide a safe place for those that had needed it.

The book follows Alice into adulthood as she travels to the red centre of Australia, an entirely different landscape and it seems that Alice is doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past as a powerful relationship takes a sinister turn. There’s a cycle in this book and you can see Alice seems powerless to escape it and you can’t do anything to stop her. This is such a compelling story, Alice’s narrative brings about a myriad of emotions – sadness and pity for that little girl, hope that she might be able to heal and find her own path, confidence in her ability to take care of herself, trepidation over some of her choices. I loved reading about the national park Alice came to work in and the respect to traditional cultures that was woven into the job and the book. You get the feeling that Alice was always going to be unable to escape the cycle until she knew the stories, something that her grandmother June had been reluctant to talk about. It’s understandable why she didn’t want to, especially when Alice was younger and had plenty to deal with already but when Alice was older, there should’ve been a few honest conversations. June obviously couldn’t bring herself to do that, despite her promises.

This is one of my favourite books of the year. It’s beautifully written, a tragic and yet somehow still uplifting story that keeps you turning the pages in the hope that Alice will find her place, her balance. The stories from the past just invite you to sink right into them and the flowers encircle everything, tying it all together. No matter the landscape, be it Alice’s childhood home close to the sea, June’s flower farm or the middle of Australia, Holly Ringland brings it all vividly alive. Her characters are incredible, every one of them and I’m not sure I could’ve wanted anything more from this book.

Put Holly Ringland on the auto buy list for the future.

10/10

Book #62 of 2018

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7 responses to “Review: The Lost Flowers Of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

  1. Veronica says:

    What a lovely review! This book is definitely on my to read list.

  2. I might make this my next read! I need a good one after the last one I read!!

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