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The Secret World of Connie Starr

The Secret World of Connie Starr

By Robbi Nealpaperback1 June 2022
$32.99
or 4 payments of $8.25 with Learn more
Booklovers earn $1.60 in rewards
A stunning evocation of Australian life through the war to the 1950s, this novel is intimate and sweeping, immediate and dreamlike - a magical rendering of darkness and joy, and the beauty inherent in difference. For readers of Sarah Winman's Still Life, Trent Dalton's All Our Shimmering Skies and Rosalie Ham's The Dressmaker.


Connie Starr was always a difficult child. Her mother knew as soon as Connie entered the world that day in Ballarat in 1934 and opened her lungs to scream, there was more chaos in the world than before and it wouldn't leave until Connie did. From the safety of a branch high in her lemon tree where she speaks to angels, she sees the world for what it is - a swirling mass of beauty and darkness, of trauma and family, of love and war and truth and lies - lies that might just undo her and drive her to a desperate act.

This ambitious, complex and insightful novel intertwines numerous stories of lives from before World War II and beyond, recreating with intimacy and breadth a world that is now lost to us. This book is a brightly coloured patchwork quilt of everything from shoes to polio, lemon trees to rivers, death to life that melds into one beautiful, luminous work of art.

'The Secret World of Connie Starr will set the literary firmament ablaze. This brilliant, quintessentially Australian ode to difference, transcends time and place - it's an achingly lovely tale that shines long after the last page.' Karen Brooks, author of The Good Wife of Bath

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Title: The Secret World of Connie Starr
  • Author: Robbi Neal
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • ISBN: 9781867207825

RATINGS & REVIEW

22/05/2022 6:14:25 PM - Marianne
Compelling, emotional and sometimes quite dark, this is a beautifully written tale.
4.5★s “Connie gave the things of life no thought at all. Instead she was separated from the world and all the people she knew in it and she watched them go about their lives from her special hidden spot in the lemon tree as if the people below were ants scurrying about without any realisation of how small and insignificant they were.” The Secret World of Connie Starr is the second novel by Australian author, Robbi Neal. Connie Starr is only five when the war begins, but an intelligent and very observant five. The lemon tree her father, a Baptist Pastor plants just before she is born is one of her observation posts from which she spies on her corner of Ballarat, while also seeing above her the demons who wreak havoc, and angels who fight them. As the world enters into war, once again, the effects on her country and her town manifest in a myriad of ways, many of which Connie finds annoying: rationing means treats are scarce, especially when her mother Flora invites so many of those less well off to share their meagre fare; her mother’s ability to calm the distressed sees her forced to give up her bed to unhappy wives. While Connie is not a direct witness to all that is suffered, Ballarat also feels the absence of those husbands and sons who go to war. And the later influx of Us Marines on R&R is not welcomed by all. Families battle on without their provider as best they can, with ingenuity and resourcefulness. Of course the war takes a huge toll: many sons and husbands killed, others missing in action, or repatriated mentally and physically broken; few return unchanged. Spanning almost twenty years the story easily evokes the feel of the small rural Australian city that often feels more like a village, during the war years and their aftermath. Neal gives the reader a large cast of characters but, by the conclusion, the reader is invested in each of their fates, for example, grieving with and later cheering on Birdie, feeling disgust for Aubrey’s behaviour, sad at Joseph’s despair at his inability to keep his children safe, and shock at the revenge a damaged refugee exacts. The comparison of this novel to Sarah Winman’s Still Life is valid, and it’s a high compliment to say that the story and characters are also reminiscent of Maeve Binchy’s work, with the lives of many characters told in vignettes and snippets that weave into each other. But blurb is a little misleading, giving the impression that Connie occupies the central role when, while she is an integral part, the lives of many other community members take turns at centre stage. As a protagonist, Connie comes across as wilful and prickly, imaginative and given to misbehaviour, ultimately a tragic figure, but unfortunately not terribly likeable. Luckily, many of the other characters more than make up for her, and their joy and sorrows will bring a tear to the eye, a lump to the throat. Compelling, emotional and sometimes quite dark, this is a beautifully written tale. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley, Better Reading Preview and HQ Fiction
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