Margaret Kinton presents a fictional account of the once-joyous relationship between a young couple of different faiths in early 20th century Australia.
In 1914, Frederick Bennett, a 20-year-old son of immigrant Irish Catholic parents, impetuously leaves his home in Bendigo, a small city in Victoria, to seek a new life in Melbourne. Finding work as a railroad porter, he meets Vida Bunting, a 19-year-old typist from a local Protestant family who rides the train to work. They begin dating and keep their faiths secret from their parents.
When Vida becomes pregnant, Fred worries “which would be the greatest sin, the baby or the fact that Vida was not a Catholic?” Without telling anyone, he enlists in the army to escape his concerns, then takes leave to marry Vida. Their families learn of their different faiths, and Fred returns to his unit while Vida lives with her parents, awaiting the birth of their daughter Nina in late 1915.
After finishing his service, Fred arrives home in April 1919. He decides to become a dairy farmer under a governmental program that assists veterans, and he, Vida and Nina depart for Stanhope, several hours away, excited to start their new path. Their happiness lasts until an unexpected tragedy arises that changes the course of the story.
The narrative smoothly unfolds as Kinton draws upon her own mother’s background to create credible characters. While describing the hostility between the families due to religious differences, Kinton also effectively shows their similarities as families struggling with wartime pressures as their children join the fighting.
Later chapters, however, span many years too quickly, rushing to reach the novel’s conclusion. And although the title’s significance is explained in the final pages, it would appear more relevant if its origin were integrated earlier into the narrative.
Despite such flaws, Blossom provides an interesting glimpse into life in World War I-era Australia for readers curious about this time period and setting.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.