All The Books I Can Read

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Blog Tour Review: The Bush Telegraph by Fiona McArthur

on September 9, 2020

The Bush Telegraph
Fiona McArthur
Penguin Random House AUS
2020, 360p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

‘Small towns and gossip go together like trees and birds.’

It’s been more than ten years since Maddy Locke left Spinifex, the small outback town where she gave birth to her daughter, Bridget. Now she’s back to prove she’s got what it takes to run the medical centre and face the memories of that challenging time in her life. But everything’s changed – the old pub is gone, her new colleagues aren’t pleased to see her, and it’s drier and hotter than ever.

Station owner, Connor Fairhall, thought he’d left the drama behind in Sydney, but moving back to Spinifex with his rebellious son, Jayden, hasn’t been the fresh start he’d envisioned. His brother, Kyle, is drinking too much and the only bright spot on the horizon is meeting Nurse Maddy, who’s breathing new life into the weary town up the road, little by little.

Can Maddy ignore the rumours about Connor and risk her heart again? Or will the bush telegraph spread along the wire fences and stand in the way of trust?

From Australia’s renowned midwife and bestselling author of The Desert Midwife, The Bush Telegraph is a romantic drama about love, friendship, community and the joys and challenges of life in the outback.

If you’ve read Fiona McArthur’s The Baby Doctor then you may recognise Maddy here. Over 10 years ago, Maddy left Spinifex in outback Queensland and has raised her daughter Bridget mostly between Lord Howe Island, off the coast of New South Wales, and Sydney. However opportunity sees Maddy return to Spinifex as a way to almost redeem herself after everything that went wrong the first time she was living there. Now she’ll be running the medical centre but already things are not looking as positive as she might’ve hoped – her daughter Bridget has not fallen in love with the changed landscape. She’s used to the lush tropical beauty and sea breezes of Lord Howe and Spinifex, with its lack of trees and red, dusty land as far as the eye can see, is not an adequate substitute. Also Maddy’s new coworkers were hoping for one thing but getting Maddy was definitely not it and one of them in particular is quite combative to her presence.

I enjoyed every single thing about this book. I really enjoyed Maddy’s journey back to Spinifex, a place that doesn’t hold a lot of positive memories for her and one that she feels she needs to revisit. As a nurse, she wants to work in remote communities and Spinifex is the first step in that. It’s many hours from pretty much everywhere (five or six to Mount Isa I think) and she’s taking her 11yo daughter along for the ride, who isn’t really all that enthusiastic about it. On her first day she meets single dad Connor, who has a son similar in age to Maddy’s daughter Bridget. Connor and his son have also only been in the area a short amount of time – Connor grew up there but his son Jayden has spent very little time there and deeply resents being there. To Connor’s dismay, he’s spending far too much time with Connor’s brother Kyle, who is hitting the bottle way too hard these days.

Both Maddy and Connor have similar single parent issues that they can bond over, although Connor’s are more serious than Maddy’s. Jayden is definitely being influenced by his uncle in some very negative ways and Maddy provides not only a sounding board but also a fresh voice, some suggestions of ways to maybe help strengthen and repair his bond with Jayden. Connor and Maddy build a really nice friendship (with the simmer of something more just under the surface) but given her history, Maddy is very wary. And there are some rumours circling about Connor that definitely make her feel as though she needs to tread carefully, lest she make the same mistake a second time.

Fiona McArthur is a nurse by profession (midwife) and she always incorporates a lot of medical procedures, routines and information into her books and this one is no exception. Maddy deals with a lot of different things at the clinic from the seriousness of a cardiac arrest to prenatal check ups to the standard assessment and treatment of suspected broken limbs. Everything is woven into the story in such seamless ways, a natural progression of the character’s medical qualifications combined with the reality of rural living. Maddy faces several dangerous scenarios here and for the most part she’s a calm, steady professional but it’s the last medical emergency that tested her in every single way possible and for me, it was that part of the story that pushed this book from very enjoyable into absolutely amazing. The way in which the tension escalated and the danger was described, the urgency of the situation was all so excellently conveyed and it had me totally gripped.

I loved this book, it was so perfect for the sort of reads I’m just craving at the moment. It’s feel good but with a seriousness throughout the plot that means you’re invested in the characters and their outcomes. I enjoyed revisiting the town of Spinifex and appreciated some of the complexities of living in such a small, outback town with quite punishing weather. I really also enjoyed the exploration of Bridget and Jayden, their feelings about their separate moves to Spinifex and in particular, Jayden’s complex and mixed up feelings about his dad and how and why Connor is a single parent. I found the situation with Kyle and Belle intriguing as well – Kyle had his problems and had made a lot of very wrong choices but he had redeeming features.

Highly recommend this.


Book #173 of 2020

The Bush Telegraph is the 64th book read for The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020

This review is part of the blog tour for The Bush Telegraph organised by Penguin Random House Australia. Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour and see their thoughts on this lovely book!

2 responses to “Blog Tour Review: The Bush Telegraph by Fiona McArthur

  1. Awesome review, such a lot of work went into sharing your thoughts on the book, and it is deeply appreciated. Thrilled you really enjoyed/were amazed by the book. Woohoo 🙂

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