Friday, March 26, 2021

Kimberley Freeman - Wildflower Hill

Wildflower Hill is s compelling and romantic novel spanning three generations and half the world, from modern day London to Australia in the 1930s.
Emma is a prima ballerina in London and at a crossroads after an injured knee ruins her career. When she learns of her grandmother Beattie’s death, and her own strange inheritance—an isolated sheep station in rural Australia—Emma is certain she has been saddled with an irritating burden. But when she returns to Australia, forced to rest her body and confront her life, she realizes that she had been using fame as a substitute for love and fulfillment.
Beattie also found herself at a crossroads as a young woman, but she was pregnant and unwed. She eventually found success—but only after following an unconventional path that was often dangerous and heartbreaking. Beattie knew the lessons she learned in life would be important to Emma one day, and she wanted to make sure Emma’s heart remained open to love, no matter what life brought. She knew the magic of the Australian wilderness would show Emma the way.

Comment: In 2016 I read another book by this author and gave it a high grade. However, besides some small notions and a few scenes, I could barely remember what it was about so I checked my post on it to refresh my mind before writing down my notes on this one and guess what, I could practically write the same things because most of my impressions are exactly the same! Plot aside, the structure of this book is the same of the other, as are my critics on that.

In this book we follow two time lines: in the 1930s Beattie is a young woman who has a dead end job while dreaming of bigger and better things. She ends up pregnant of her married lover and to escape together, they sail to Australia, hoping to settle in a place no one knows them. However, what wasn't perfect doesn't get solved and their life is troublesome. Beattie is determined to make things right for their daughter, though, so she decides to take action.
In the present, her granddaughter Emma, who has been a ballerina her whole life, living and breathing dancing excluding pretty much everything and everyone from her path, now faces a future without the thing she loves the most. She travels to Tasmania, where her grandmother has a house which was the base of her business and success and she plans on selling but before that happens, she decides to tidy and package her family's things...which leads her to uncover some secrets...
It was truly funny how much of the same things I thought about hat other book end up being the ones I think about this one now. This to say it really seems the author doesn't deviate too much from her style and her way of structuring the plots. The details might vary and might focus on different issues, but the planning does seem very similar.
In both books I've noticed that in the dual time stories there seems to be a point of connection but as I did think about the other book and as I do about this one, that element isn't important at all. In this book Emma is Beattie's granddaughter. Why should this matter besides the obvious? They don't interact enough and their life stories are very different and if there are similar things we need to want to see them, because they are not obvious. 
I think this book's biggest problem is the same one I found on the other book! The story didn't have to be dual timed, had the author focused on just one or the other and used the other story as a complement (for instance, if the historical setting was the focus, Emma's story could be an epilogue and if the contemporary one was the focus, the historical elements could be shared by letters of small flashbacks), I think the reader could concentrate better on the strong elements of each. The way things happen, I found out that, as I did with the other book, the contemporary plot was too superficial and Emma's character not developed enough. It felt forced we had to have her POV.

The historical setting in this book worked out better for me. I really cared for Beattie, I wanted her to succeed and I wanted her story to be larger than life. I feel the writing style was too categorical, everything was imparted in such a definite way that although I felt for the character's plights, the situation almost didn't let the reader stay with those emotions because the next situation was already happening. Since there are two times, the attention had to be divided and that "broke" the emotional investment done for both.

Still, I liked Beattie's story and the difficulties she faced, how she tried to have a better life and all the disappointments and losses she suffered shaped who she was... at the same time, it felt as if the "peak" of all this was never achieved, there is something about the book's structure that didn't allow for a twist or a climax to finally give us Beattie's big moment. Those were spread out through the book and from a certain point on, things felt they couldn't go anywhere anymore. 
The end was OK, but very unsatisfactory for me. I was not convinced of Emma's dedication to a new path in life, for her story was rather weak and the conclusion of Beattie's life and the last unsolved issue she had was left up in the air, I mean... sure, I can imagine but it's not the same thing.
I'll look at other books by the author but it does seem she has found her style and her MO... the other book I had read somehow had a special something that won me over but this time I wasn't as engaged...I can't help but wonder if the luster has been rubbed off for me...
Grade: 7/10

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