From the Ashes
by Deborah Challinor, HarperCollins If you enjoyed Deborah Challinor’s Convict Girl books, set in Australia, you’re likely to love the first in her Restless Years series, set right here in New Zealand. It’s the 1950s, a time of rapid change as more women join the workforce, rock ’n’ roll seduces the young, and refrigerators, washing machines and indoor toilets start to revolutionise domestic life. But there is also division and discrimination, both economic and racial, and while moral standards might be loosening, it is still shameful and scandalous for an unmarried woman to fall pregnant. All these issues – and more – are covered in the lives of the women from the three families at the heart of the story. There’s Allie Manaia, who survived the Dunbar and Jones department store fire and now works at Smith and Caugheys, but can’t understand why she is unable to shake the dread she feels every time she enters her workplace. Allie is married to Sonny, whose sister Polly works as a waitress and prostitute, leaving her young daughter in the care of her mother. On the other side of the social divide is wealthy, bored housewife and mother Kathleen Lawson – a customer who tries to befriend Allie but is shocked when she learns Allie’s husband is Maori. Down in Hawke’s Bay, Ana Leonard enjoys life on their isolated farm, apart from the deteriorating condition of her father-in-law, Jack, who has dementia – an illness that precipitates huge change in their family’s circumstances. As the story unfolds and the women’s lives intertwine, it is easy to invest in each of the characters and there is much to recognise and identify with in the local landscape. Roll on book two in this New Zealand author’s new series.