REVIEW: Alli Sinclair’s ‘Burning Fields’
1948 The world is struggling to regain a sense of balance after the devastation of World War II, and the sugar cane–growing community of Piri River in northern Queensland is no exception.
As returned servicemen endeavour to adjust to their pre–war lives, women who had worked for the war effort are expected to embrace traditional roles once more.
Rosie Stanton finds it difficult to return to the family farm after years working for the Australian Women’s Army Service. Reminders are everywhere of the brothers she lost in the war and she is unable to understand her father’s contempt for Italians, especially the Conti family next door. When her father takes ill, Rosie challenges tradition by managing the farm, but outside influences are determined to see her fail.
Desperate to leave his turbulent history behind, Tomas Conti has left Italy to join his family in Piri River. Tomas struggles to adapt in Australia–until he meets Rosie. Her easy–going nature and positive outlook help him forget the life he’s escaped. But as their relationship grows, so do tensions between the two families until the situation becomes explosive.
When a long–hidden family secret is discovered and Tomas’s mysterious past is revealed, everything Rosie believes is shattered. Will she risk all to rebuild her family or will she lose the only man she’s ever loved?
What AusRom Today thought:
Set in north Queensland post WWII, Alli Sinclair’s Burning Fields is a stunning, evocative novel that rewrites the narrative for Australian themed historical romance.
As with her previous novels, Burning Fields dives deeply into the historical setting, in this case of both the north QLD cane fields and war-torn Italy, while maintaining strong characterisation, and steady plot development. A Sinclair novel isn’t complete without what is becoming in my opinion Alli’s trademark focus on woman-led narrative detailing the challenges and hard-won advances of women of that particular time period.
Burning Fields female protagonist Rosie Stanton is a strong-willed woman who is clearly ahead of her time. Having served in the Australian Women’s Army and arguably having more worldly experience than her father sets the scene quite early. She is a formidable character, steadfast yet compassionate and so delicately vulnerable.
The story of Tomas Conti, an Italian immigrant who is struggling to find his feet in a new set of circumstance is Australia is authentic and touching. Certainly much research went into understanding the difficulties and prejudices faced by Italian post-WWII immigrants.
Love, family, accepting the past in order to embrace your future, and believing in yourself are just some of the qualities that shine through in Burning Fields. This is absolutely a must-read.
If you liked Judy Nunn’s depiction of the harsh north Queensland terrain and cane fields in Elianne you’ll adore Alli Sinclair’s Burning Fields.