Monday, February 25, 2019

Review: Sweet Bitter Cane by G.S. Johnston

Title: Sweet Bitter Cane
Author: G.S. Johnston
Format: eBook
Publisher: MiaRebaRose Press
Publish Date: February 20, 2019
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "One woman. Two men. A war.

Twenty-year-old Amelia marries Italo, a man she’s never met. To escape an Italy reeling from the Great War, she sails to him in Far North Queensland to farm sugarcane. But before she meets her husband, she’s thrown into the path of Fergus, a man who’ll mark the rest of her life.

Faced with a lack of English and hostility from established cane growers, caught between warring unions and fascists, Amelia’s steady hand grows Italo’s business to great success, only for old grudges to break into new revenge. She is tested by forces she couldn’t foresee and must face her greatest challenge: learning to live again.

Sweeping in its outlook, Sweet Bitter Cane is a family saga but also an untold story of migrant women – intelligent, courageous and enduring women who were the backbone of the sugarcane industry and who deserve to be remembered."

My Two Cents:

In "Sweet Bitter Cane," Amelia is married off to Italo while she is still in Italy and he is in Australia working a sugar cane farm. She doesn't know what to expect in leaving everything she knows in Italy for the untamed frontier of Australia but she knows that this marriage will be a ticket away from the first World War sweeping through Europe. She knows that she must learn to love Italo but her heart is torn in many directions when she meets Fergus, the son of the man who originally owned Italo's land. I really enjoyed this sweeping family saga, filled with details of a history I knew little of.

So many of the historical fiction about the two World Wars seem to be about those that stayed in Europe, either by their own volition or by force. It was refreshing to get a story of someone that left. Through Amelia, we see how hard it was for her to leave Italy even if Australia was safer. She still yearns for Italy in more than one way and this may hurt her in the long run as you shall see (I don't want to give anything away).

The historical detail in the book is a real treat. The author does a great job of capturing what life on a sugar cane farm would have been like at the time. He shows the hard work that must go into it and the blood, sweat, and tears the entire family will shed. Although the Italians seem to want to contribute to their new land, they are still looked at as outsiders and as the Italians seek to protect themselves and look toward a fascist group to help them hold on to their old ways, the differences are quite clear. The connection between the immigrants and the shifting politics in Italy was something that I definitely didn't know about. I did wish that we would have gotten to see more of what Amelia and Italo thought about what they saw when they visited Italy. That detail would have been nice.

I have to mention the family saga. I loved all the twists and turns these characters went through. The relationships between Amelia and Italo and Amelia and Fergus were definitely interesting to read about. The love triangle was well done. We see the echo it has through the two generations that the book involves. I won't get too far into that as to not give anything away.

Overall, this was a good story with good writing. I loved all of the detail and this made for a good read!



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