Life was tough in nineteenth century Australia, especially in the bush and particularly for women. In The Good Woman of Renmark, author Darry Fraser has encapsulated the hardship of living and working on the Murray River and the disparity between men and women in terms of independence and rights. This story isn’t just a women’s rights treatise, however, but the story of a woman coming to understand herself as she faces unbelievable challenges. Maggie O’Rourke is a strong woman, loyal to her friends and family and a hard worker but her fear of childbirth and her desire to be independent has cost her a relationship with Sam Elliott, the only man she’s ever loved. Mind you, it seems to have taken Maggie a long time to come to that realisation and as this story opens she’s on the verge of losing the man who means everything to her. With the fear that she may have killed a man, the uncertainty of her future and the possibility of never again seeing her family Maggie faces one challenge after another, growing stronger as a person as she overcomes each hurdle. I couldn’t help but respect her and by the end of this story I had my fingers crossed for a good outcome, though that was no certainty, which kept me turning the pages. Sam, meanwhile, has given up on ever making Maggie his own and while he has vowed to find her and bring her back to her family he’s decided that will be it for the relationship he’d hoped to forge with her. He too is a strong character and a man to respect. His dedication to the task, the brusque way he hides his feelings for Maggie and his confusion about her feelings for him make him both vulnerable and immensely likeable. For a spectacular glimpse of Australian history wrapped up in a complex love story with plenty of twists and turns along the way you’d be hard pressed to find a better story to read than this one. I found it both entertaining and informational. It’s left me thinking and wanting to find out more about the country I live in. Highly recommended!
It took me a little while for me to get into this one. I was probably about half way through before things really started to pick up for me. The story is told through multiple POV's, but the most prominent one is Maggie O'Rourke.
The time is the late 1800's, before women had the vote and the suffragette movement was beginning to grow. Maggie was a strong character who knew that she wanted to be independent and be able to live her life the way she wanted, and not the way she was expected to.
She gets into a tussle with a horrible man, Robert, where she is working one day, and set off on the run after that. Now, Robert, this character was loathsome. I HATED him, and eventually his wife and brother as well. These were the kind of characters that show the things truly wrong with the world. But back in the era that this book is set in, crimes such as Robert committed, weren't believed, or cared about as much as they are today.
We also have other characters such as Sam and Bucky, who I really liked. And Jane from Lyrup, and Nara and Wadgie from Renmark as well.
With so much going on in this book, it really highlights how much things have changed since the era that the novel is set in. The Murray River plays a huge part of this story, and the ways that people lived on the land.
In the end, I thought things played out nicely, although I wish that Sam and Maggie had more communication. Everyone got what they deserved, and I was quite happy with how it all played out.
I have really been enjoying historical Australian stories this past year. The chance to read my first Darry Fraser story was a no brainer for me - let me have it.
Now, as a teen in the 80s, I was completely in love with John Waters in All The Rivers Run, and The Good Woman of Renmark have me all of those kind of vibes.
It gives us a good glimpse of the social history of the time. Women did not yet have the vote, the suffragette movement growing every day. The Mighty Murray (which isn't so mighty in these days of drought) could be your friend or your foe. It was hard work but could have great reward.
Our leading lady Maggie is all the things that were changing at the time. She wouldn't let men take advantage of her or her friends. She was resourceful. To me she felt like a trailblazer, ahead of her time, not needing a man to have a fulfilling life.
The story is fast paced and flowed well. I absolutely adored the imagery, and could imagine myself on the banks of the Murray, watching the world glide by.
I have not read any of Ms Fraser's previous works, however I will look out for more in the future.