All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Country Wedding by Barbara Hannay

on May 5, 2020

The Country Wedding
Barbara Hannay
Penguin Random House AUS
2017, 417p
Gifted from my Nan

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Two country weddings, fifty years apart … and the miracle of second chances.

In the tiny Tablelands township of Burralea, Flora Drummond is preparing to play in a string quartet for the wedding of a very close friend. The trouble is, she can’t quite forget the embarrassing teenage crush she once had on the handsome groom.

All is as it should be on the big day. The little church is filled with flowers, the expectant guests are arriving, and Mitch is nervously waiting – but his bride has had a sudden change of heart.

Decades earlier, another wedding in the same church led to a similar story of betrayal and devastation. Hattie missed out on marrying her childhood sweetheart the first time around, but now she has returned to the scene of her greatest heartache.

As Flora is drawn into both romantic dramas, she must also confront a relationship crisis of her own. But the past and the present offer promise for the future and there’s a chance for friends, old and new, to help each other to heal.

From the rolling green hills of Far North Queensland to the crowded streets of Shanghai on the eve of the Second World War, this is a beautiful romantic saga that tells of two loves lost and found and asks the questions – do we ever get over our first love, and is it ever too late to make amends?

I often mention my Nan is one of my greatest reading influences. She bought me tonnes of books as a kid – Enid Blyton, Babysitters Club books, she always made sure I had plenty of books on my shelf. When I got older I started reading the books she bought for herself. She’s not interested in rereading or keeping them, so she buys them, reads them and passes them on to my mother. When my mother is finished with them, I take the ones I’m interested in back to Melbourne with me or my parents bring me a stack on one of their annual visits. This one has been sitting on my shelf for a little while but I’m trying to add in a few books I’ve owned for ages and not read so this one caught my eye.

I really love Barbara Hannay books and I’ve missed a couple over the years. That became obvious when I got a little way into this one and had an inkling that there’d probably been one before this focusing on Flora’s brother so I’m going to have to try and track that one down to read.

I really love dual timelines and this is an excellent example of why. In the current timeline, Flora has returned to near her childhood home to regroup. That means getting reacquainted with Mitch, her teenage crush who was just jilted at the altar. And in the historical timeline, Hattie watched the man she loved marry someone else and then left Australia after finding out the truth of her parentage. She’s never been back to Burralea until bones are found on Flora’s brother Seth’s new farm. Hattie decides that she needs to go back, face the man she lost and help solve the mystery.

Flora is a violinist who used to play for an orchestra in Melbourne and I loved that part of the story. Classical music is something I became interested in last year so I really enjoy seeing it in books and actually knowing some of the pieces when they get mentioned. As a favour she has to oversee the children’s Christmas concert, which provides a lot of community interaction and gives Flora a chance to foster the same love of music in others that she has herself, the way her own teacher did when she was a child. I really got the small community feel as well, it seemed like a lovely place.

There’s quite a bit going on, with several weddings in different timelines, the impact of WWII in Shanghai China (which isn’t something I’ve read about before) involving wealthy British expats and ‘White Russians’, those who have fled Russia but find themselves classed as ‘stateless’ in China. However everything came together really well, the happenings in Shanghai shaped the reasons people found themselves in Australia. And the story of how the bones came to be where they were placed nicely in connecting things together in the present. It gave two characters an opportunity at a ‘second chance’ as well as providing Mitch with the motivation he needed to change things, after he realised he had gotten stuck in a bit of a rut.

Mitch and Flora are a second chance in a way as well. Mitch suffers a jarring humiliation when his fiancee doesn’t show for their wedding, leaving him standing there in front of most of the town. He and Flora knew each other well as teens, when Flora’s father offered a troubled Mitch work and a place to stay. Flora had a big crush on him and there’s a night none of them talk about…..they’ve had little to do with each other since but Flora’s return to the area and Mitch’s newly single status gives them an opportunity to realise that the spark of chemistry is still there and that maybe this time, it can be explored. There are some complications though, namely Flora’s return to the area is only temporary and that soon she’ll be looking further afield for a new orchestra role.

I always know I’m going to get a really enjoyable story when I pick up a Barbara Hannay book and even with knowing that, she always has the ability to also surprise me, with some added details or an element of the story that is unexpected. For me, it was the Shanghai portion in this book, I found it fascinating. Definitely might have to hunt down something set in Shanghai just prior to the Second World War and explore this a little more. Also really liked both the romances, the way in which the story explored abuse and also how extending an olive branch to a lonely neighbour can open up a whole new world of opportunity. Now I also need to find the book that revolves around Flora’s brother Seth and his new partner.

8/10

Book #81 of 2020

The Country Wedding is book #27 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2020


One response to “Review: The Country Wedding by Barbara Hannay

  1. Marg says:

    You know I love a good dual timeline!

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