All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Dear Banjo by Sasha Wasley

on May 2, 2019

Dear Banjo (The Paterson Sisters, #1)
Sasha Wasley
Penguin Random House AUS
2017, 381p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

They were best friends who were never meant to fall in love – but for one of them, it was already way too late.

Willow ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Tom Forrest were raised on neighboring cattle stations in the heart of the Kimberley. As young adults, sharing the same life dreams, something came between them that Willow cannot forget, and now ten years have passed. When her father falls ill, Willow is called home to take over the running of the family property, Patterson Downs. Her vision for a sustainable, organic cattle station is proving hard to achieve. She needs Tom’s help, but is it all too late, and too difficult, to make amends?

A pile of Tom’s heartfelt letters has remained unopened and unspoken between them. Willow must find the courage to finally bring them out. Their tattered pages reveal a love story like no other – and one you’ll never forget. Dear Banjo is a wildly romantic and utterly captivating story about first love and second chances, from an exciting new Australian author.

I had heard some really excellent things about this book but I’d missed out on reading it when it was published. Not that long ago, someone posted in an online book club that I’m in, that this and the 2nd book were greatly reduced on eBook retailers, presumably because the third is soon to be published. I snapped them both up. I haven’t read a lot of rural novels lately – it’s possible that the trend is easing off, because it’s been very strong for quite a number of years now and there’s probably going to be a natural ebb and flow in that. Books like this though, are why this genre attained such popularity and why it is so beloved by a lot of Australian readers.

Willow ‘Banjo’ Paterson grew up on a family farm with her two sisters, older sister Beth and the younger Freya. They lost their mother when Willow was about 11 and since then, there’s been plenty of challenges. Next door on the neighbouring farm was Tom Forrest and he and Willow were the best of friends, always thinking and planning about how they were going to modernise and change the family farms when they both took over. They were like one voice and whilst Willow was thinking of a business merger for the two properties, as they approached adulthood, Tom was definitely thinking of a more romantic proposal. For Willow, this was not supposed to be the way things went and she fled to university. 10 years later and now she’s back to help out (take over) on the farm after her father falls ill. There’s no way to avoid Tom now and Willow wants them to make their way back to that friendship they had.

I really, really loved this. Willow is such a well constructed character – she’s somewhat emotionally stunted and she hasn’t really developed friendships or had any meaningful relationships since she left the farm. She’s very passionate about the farm and she has a lot of ideas based on her study in the city on how to really change their methods and go for organic certification. It will mean some outlay and a drop in profits at first, but later on they will be rewarded. She has some really fresh and exciting ideas but she also knows she has to tread carefully – her dad has run this farm for a long time and he’s not really going to be knowledgeable about some of her ideas and also, he’s been quite ill so she doesn’t want to worry him or have him stressed out unnecessarily. She also knows she needs to tread carefully with some of the men/staff who probably won’t like the change, especially a woman coming in with all these new ideas and changing everything and all their known methods. Willow is juggling a lot of plates and it’s very precarious for her. Just one mistake and everything will collapse.

And then there’s Tom. Things between them are so awkward at first – but soon the connection that has always been there between them is reestablished and they find much to talk about in terms of improvements to the farms, new methods and directions to go in, troubleshooting problems and the like. Tom is a huge help to Willow, providing advice and a sounding board when she feels that she cannot confide in anyone else – she can’t stress out her father, she’s struggling with the farm manager, her sister Beth doesn’t see things the same way. With Tom, Willow is able to get out all her fears, her frustrations and her hopes and dreams for the future. Willow is sure that Tom understands this time around, that he can’t spoil things with feelings anything other than friendship……right?

This is a book that takes a lot of time to really establish the bond that Tom and Willow have, both as children and then again as adults after Willow moves back to the farm. They have so many similar ideas and dreams for their properties and they work together so well. But Willow has a lot of issues with what she’s allowed herself to feel and the sort of ways that she’s seen people in her life. She realises that she never lets anyone in – and that one of the women she was friends with in Perth is genuinely upset at her moving back, whereas Willow hadn’t thought too much about it at all. I like that Willow develops this self-awareness and she does attempt to make some of those changes. She has a lot to learn about feelings and what she wants in life and what is actually waiting for her. The romance is in both ways strong in this and yet not at all, because Willow has to grow a lot as a person to someone who can actually recognise her own feelings and think about being in a relationship. Tom’s feelings are there the whole time, but Willow spends a huge portion of the book denying the existence of hers, especially to herself.

This story overall was just so…..satisfying. I enjoyed every part of it – Willow’s journey taking over the farm and implementing her changes, dealing with staff issues and potential sabotage, her adjustments being back living there and being around her family, her friendship and connection with Tom. I liked both of her sisters and I can’t wait to read their stories too. Also I really loved the inclusion of the letters, such a great core to build the story around.

9/10

Book #58 of 2019

Dear Banjo is book #28 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019


3 responses to “Review: Dear Banjo by Sasha Wasley

  1. I liked this one a lot more than the second, but I still intend on reading the third. Overall, it’s a great series.

  2. […] I read and loved both Dear Banjo and True Blue, the first two books in this trilogy revolving around the Paterson sisters, who […]

  3. […] Dear Banjo by Sasha Wasley. My review. […]

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