The Jacaranda House
Set in both Australia and New Zealand, this book drew me in instantly. Perhaps that’s because I like a sense of where something is happening, a time and space in which to place my thoughts. Because this novel is set in places and spaces I know, it required very little ‘world building’ for me. Or perhaps it was just that the author is a great world builder – so good I didn’t even notice. Either way I was off to an excellent start.
The great start just didn’t stop. Challinor introduces a wildly exciting and dynamic bunch of characters who leap of the page – filled with life and exuberance, but also flaws and sadness. It was impossible not to love them all.
Polly, our protagonist, is a mystery, and this novel centres on getting to the bottom of what she is running away from (both literally and figuratively). Her interactions with her young daughter and two flatmates give us opportunities to glimpse and guess at what has happened in her past. Her work, and that of her flatmates, in Kings Cross in 1964 gives us a little ‘colour’ too, and will for many readers offer some insight into a world that few of us experience.
It’s clear while reading that Challinor is a historian. Subtle descriptions of events or items create an anchor to the time period in which this story is set and this allows us a deeper understanding of some of the mindsets and restraints in place in this era. All these elements are skilfully woven into the compelling narrative, and make for a delightful read.
As you can guess, I totally recommend this book. There are some subjects that some less ‘worldly-wise’ readers might find jarring, so for that reason I perhaps wouldn’t recommend it to someone with a narrow or restricted world view, but other than that I would recommend this to all – it really is a great read that transports you to another world. And that, by my definition, is a good book!