Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
It is not often that the main character around which the story revolves is a nonagenarian but this is the case in Helene Young’s seventh novel Return to Roseglen.
Ivy Dunmore lives at Roseglen, a cattle property west of the Atherton Tableland, but doesn’t know how long she can cope on her own, even with the help of her younger neighbour, Mitch. Her only close family is a son, who Ivy suspects is taking advantage of her. Ivy may be ninety-three but she has learned a lot about running a cattle station over her lifetime and is determined to ensure that whoever replaces her at the property will have its best interests at heart. Ivy also has a secret which is beginning to weigh heavily.
Her two daughters have their own lives to live some distance away, however they return to Roseglen when they both reach a turning point in their lives much to Ivy’s delight. But how will the different personalities rub along?
Helene Young uses this family and their relationships to explore social issues which are rarely highlighted in popular literature. Themes in the novel embrace the impact of menopause, retirement and the fall-out from divorce on women’s wellbeing as well as elder abuse and the frustration of old age.
This is a novel about the women in this family and the strengths that they have acquired from Ivy as well as through their own experiences.
It is also a novel about love – not the feelings of passion accompanying first love but more about parental love, intergenerational love (children and grandchildren), tough love and indulgent love which can also be blind love until actions can no longer be ignored. There is also demonstrated the power of respectful non-family love, enduring love and the realisation that before some bridges can be mended the issue of self-love needs to be addressed.
Twenty- eight years as an airline captain in Australia and her visits to rural and remote places along with a fascination and interest in people and social issues have provided Helene Young with an insight which she aptly entwines into her novels, especially this novel Return to Roseglen.
In 2011 and 2012 she won the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) Romantic Book of the Year Award. She was also voted most popular romantic suspense author by the Romance Readers of Australia (ARRA) in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and shortlisted for the same award in 2012.
I really enjoyed the honest way that the author treated the themes in this novel, from the frustration experienced by Ivy yet also her determination to do the right thing and how the strengths of each of the girls comes to the fore. “She’d grown up with tough love, or very little love, and that’s what she dished out to you two. And why was Lissie different?……Lissie isn’t you. She wants peace and quiet in her world, had no trouble showing her emotions……….you never wear your heart on your sleeve…..doesn’t mean that you don’t feel things deeply. You do. Maybe too deeply. Maybe you need to forgive yourself” (246-7).
This was a story about the strong women in one family and they are not alone.
After loss and devastation experienced by the characters they find the strength to carry on. “That’s what Mum would have done. Chip off the old block. The Dunmore girls are made of stern stuff. We’ll survive……Chin up, as Ivy used to tell us” (355).
This does not mean that there are no interesting male characters in the story. Ken, the son, is the main villain and sees everything in relation to how it can benefit him, even going so far as to try to destroy anything that might thwart his goals. But there are kind, considerate, loyal and honest men within the story line like Tom and Mitch who are both supportive and loyal friends to Ivy and her daughters. Mitch owns the property between Ivy and her son’s spread and often finds himself in physical conflict with Ken as he tries to protect Ivy from her manipulative son.
There is love, anger, hatred and feelings of powerlessness within this story just as there is in life and for me it ticked all the boxes for a very good read.
By Helene Young
Penguin Michael Joseph