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Book DetailsISBN: 9781760630584
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Book Review: The Orchardist's Daughter by Karen Viggers - Reviewed by CloggieA (09 Jan 2019)
5 stars The Orchardist’s Daughter is the fourth novel by Australian veterinarian and author, Karen Viggers. Parks Ranger Leon Walker has finally left his parents on Bruny Island to take up a position in a small southern Tasmanian logging town. He can still head back to mum if she needs him, but he’s hoping he can make a difference to the public’s attitude to conservation. And here he can visit Grandpa, maybe get him talking about family history a bit.
In the eighteen months since Mikaela Muller’s parents died in the fire that took their farmhouse, she and her older brother Kurt have worked hard in their Takeaway shop. Miki really misses their orchard and being close to the forest, but they’re saving to be able to afford another farm. Meanwhile, she and Kurt have Mondays in the forest: they tend their hives, and Miki can spend time watching the wedge-tailed eagles and marvelling at the ancient Swamp Gum.
Kurt and Miki are worried about the advance of the loggers and their destructive machines, and Miki wishes she could spend more time in her forest, something that makes her feel so good, but when Kurt goes to Hobart, he locks her in. He doesn’t like her talking to customers, but she sees what’s going on in the town, and has friends, even if she’s unaware of them. Ten-year-old Max, Leon’s neighbour, is one of her favourites, bright and enthusiastic, but lately he’s been behaving out of character.
What a wonderful story Viggers gives the reader. Three separate narrative strands give events from the perspectives of Miki, Leon and Max. And while some aspects may be predictable, several underlying mysteries will keep the reader guessing, and there are a few turns before a thrilling climax and a realistic ending.
Viggers touches on age-old issues including domestic violence and bullying, but also presents several aspects of the debate over logging versus conservation, and the problem of Facial Tumour Disease in Tasmanian Devils. The depth of her research into these subjects is apparent on every page, as is her love for Tasmania’s forests and her unique wildlife. Viggers also has a gift for descriptive prose: “a bushy beard like a nest of lichen draped from his chin” is just one example.
Her characters are certainly not stereotypes: they all display very human faults and weaknesses along with their generosity and good intentions. No doubt of particular appeal to many readers will be Grandpa, Max, Geraldine and Lily Moon. Readers unfamiliar with the work of this talented author will certainly be checking out her backlist after reading this brilliant novel. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Allen&Unwin
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