A Distant Journey by Di Morrissey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
1962 Palm Springs. Twenty year old Cindy meets a wealthy, handsome Australian, sheep farmer and, on a whim, drops out of college to return to Australia to marry him. The harsh and rugged life there is very different to the life she imagined. On the whole she’s welcomed by the community but she encounters a puzzling hostility from her father-in-law. Soon, she discovers there are family secrets that neither father nor son are prepared to talk about.
As a writer myself, I often find myself analysing other writer’s techniques as I read, wondering why certain characters are the way they are, why the author added that certain plot point, etc. In this book I wondered about the construction of this novel. It is essentially Cindy’s story and yet she doesn’t appear until the book is well underway. The beginning chapters focus on her aunts, Alice and, more prominently, Babs, and how they made Palm Springs their home. I wondered why the author gave them so much prominence. I also didn’t really understand the connection between the story and the prologue. If it was explained or inferred, I missed it.
The other thing the author does is to leap years from one chapter to the next. In one part her children are all young, the next chapter they’re adults getting married. Sometimes I wasn’t ready to take such a big jump forwards.
Overall, this book had the feel of a biography with a bit of mystery thrown in. I guessed the solution to the mystery early in the story. I think the author’s strengths lie in capturing the essence of the Australian outback with such vivid descriptions. You can really visualise what it must be like to experience bushfire or a willy willy (mini tornado).
Despite these criticisms I enjoyed the story. Cindy was a stoic, hard-working character who didn’t dissolve into histrionics every time something went wrong. I never have much time for those characters. Murray possibly wasn’t quite as strong a character as I would liked but I loved chic, always well-groomed Aunt Alice, who is never seen without perfect makeup and yet certainly doesn’t stand back when she wants something.