Western Australia in the late 19th century offered both promise and heartache to the many newcomers lured by tales of gold discoveries. In Julie Townrow’s novel Golden Valley, this promise also attracted teen-aged Martin Rossmoyne, the son of a cruel father and abused mother in an English mill town. After a particularly brutal episode with his father, Martin plans an escape for his mother and sisters, an escape expedited when he discovers they all had been secretly saving money from their domestic employments and have the means to travel.
After briefly settling in Albany, where his mother works as a seamstress, Martin and his entrepreneurial sister Sophie travel westward toward Perth in search of more opportunity. The two join forces with a pair of brothers, Ben and Charlie, who are also drifting around to find work. While the men investigate mining opportunities, Sophie secures a hotel job that also enables her to pursue her side activity of sexually servicing men.
Instead of actually mining, Martin and Ben discover that hauling water to miners in the barren land would yield steady profit. That leads naturally to establishing a freight business to transport supplies and equipment to miners.
The story follows Martin’s increasing success as he ventures into constructing hotels and homes for workers and his satisfaction at being able to offer happiness and security for his mother and sisters. Unfortunately, the young man’s expanding ventures require hiring additional help and the malevolent nature of an employee briefly threatens the entire enterprise.
Townrow places readers firmly in her setting, which is rich in evocative and historical details and enhances her story filled with very real characters. Sadly though, the story is so rife with spelling, grammatical, punctuation and syntax errors, in addition to numerous misused words (i.e. “emaciated” instead of “emancipated”) that it is often almost unreadable. Serious work by a competent editor could redeem what has the potential to be a lively and engaging story.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.