Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Sometimes when you start reading a book you feel compelled to keep on reading until the whole story emerges. This is how it was for me with Jenny Ashcroft’s Under The Golden Sun. I kept being driven back to continue reading. It is hard to understand why. Was it because the story was all about a very young boy who had lost his mother and his only other guardian was old and very ill? What was to happen to him?
The story begins in Australia in 1936, where a pregnant woman appears to be running away from something sinister. The reader is then transported to England in 1941. The world is at war and people in England are getting used to living under threat. Most are involved in the war effort. A young woman called Rose then becomes the focus of the story. She has had a turbulent few years and, even though she is engaged to a press correspondent over from New York since the beginning of the war, she seems adrift. A chance sighting of an advertisement for a chaperone to accompany a young child to Australia gives her a focus.
After an eventful voyage, she and her charge arrive in Australia only to find they are not expected and apparently not wanted. Themes of family relationships, prejudice, war wounds, love and war on Australia’s door-step form the environment in which the characters dance around each other. In Australia, the setting is a cattle property (called a plantation in the book) to the west of Brisbane.
The characters felt real though mostly with emotional hang-ups. I believe the storyline contained all the ingredients that readers come to expect of historical fiction. It could also fit quite comfortably under the genres of romance, war story and domestic fiction. With the help of her husband’s grandfather and his war stories, Jenny Ashcroft was able to provide the reader with authentic information from that time in history. Brisbane in those years was brought to life with dances at the Trocadero, going to the movies at the Wintergarden and the Americans arriving after Japan started its offensive into the Pacific. Winston Churchill also found his way into this story. And of course, love never does run smooth, but it all works out for the best in the end.
Although the author lives in England now, she did spend many years working in Australia and Asia. Her fascination with the past as well as the way that extraordinary events can transform the lives of ordinary people has led to her writing three other books before this one. Beneath A Burning Sky, Island in the East and Meet Me In Bombay, all set in exotic locations, were ebook bestsellers.
I did enjoy this light-hearted story set in my own backyard. I am sure most female readers would also enjoy it.
Under the Golden Sun
By Jenny Ashcroft