Rosemary Wisewould’s first-hand knowledge regarding the sacrifices required to start and work a family farm in Western Australia, enriches her unique novel, Virgin Impressions.
Stacy Oxley is 12 years old, away at boarding school in England, when she loses her parents. In the years prior to their death, Stacy’s parents promised her they would bring her home when the time was right, and in the aftermath of their deaths she becomes withdrawn and distrustful, a trait that haunts her as she matures.
Years later, while working in a hospital, she meets patient Rob Ballingall. They eventually marry and have their first of four children. But Rob has a dream–to start and work his own farm. They leave Collie, Australia, in the summer of 1968 and move to Fitzgerald.
Farm life proves tough for the Ballingalls. Their initial house is nothing more than a shack with an outhouse in back. The family must also cope with environmental extremes, temperamental farm equipment, pesky kangaroos and summer invasions of blowflies. At the same time, Stacy battles her ongoing feelings of inadequacy as a woman, wife and niece, while fearing rejection from those closest to her.
Wisewould relies too heavily on telling, rather than showing readers the action of her story. There are countless sections where events and dialogue, and even days, weeks and months of plot developments, are summarized in lengthy paragraphs. Her tendency to haphazardly shift points of view also becomes challenging.
Still, Wisewould’s portrait of the frustrating and monotonous sides of farming is fascinating, as are the many sacrifices her characters must make in order to keep things running. Her characters are tangible, and Stacy’s storyline in particular has a strong, satisfying arc. Despite its flaws, Wisewould’s novel introduces a family and way of life worth knowing
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