From the Ashes

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - BOOKS -

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.

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