Review of Chill of Blame

Elizabeth Rimmington’s latest novel ‘Chill of Blame’ has caught the spirit of rural Australia in World War I convincingly. The two contrasting settings depict the home front and the war front. Basically it is the story of a family coping with anxiety and depression at home while their young men face the demands of desert warfare. There is tragedy and joy and long years of just keeping going.

I found the description of the Light Horse Brigade’s activities from basic training, travelling to Egypt and fighting in Palestine engrossing. The detailed descriptions of army life and the famous charge at Beersheba blended history into the novel seamlessly. The wonderful waler horses became characters as the trooper and his mount bonded as one.

Station life on a cattle property in North Queensland rang true. I did struggle at first with a mother’s obsession but more than a century ago depressive illness, including post-natal depression, were little understood. Congratulations to Rimmington for focusing on the effects on both the sufferer and those trying to support her.

The characters in ‘Chill of Blame’ show so many different kinds of strengths and the reader will empathise with them right up to a satisfying conclusion.

Review by Margaret Bevege Ph D, author and historian.

Review of Burdekin Heartbeats

In her character Shauna Doolan, Elizabeth Rimmington has created a true pioneering hero. While much of eastern Australia was settled by 1900, regions of North Queensland were still being opened to agriculture. The south bank of the Burdekin was one such area. Rimmington depicts the struggles of the sugar and cattle pioneers with the vicissitudes of the land and she shows the resulting physical and emotional toll on the people. Her detailed descriptions of the grubbing of stumps, the clearing of scrub and the hand planting of cane by the men, while the women launder in fire heated outdoor tubs and bake in primitive kitchens, ring true.
Shauna falls in love, struggles in marriage, has near encounters with deadly snakes and nurses a damaged returned World War I soldier. She sets up a school for the children of the local Aboriginal, Chinese and Irish families. Her life is set in real-time history and while she is a fiction, her true-life equivalents existed in the precise environment that Rimmington describes.
Burdekin Heartbeats is a book for the world-wide Burdekin diaspora and equally for those who want a window into an Australian pioneering story that rings true.

By Margaret Bevege Ph D, author of ‘Behind Barbed Wire’, UQP.

 

 

Review of Shadow of the Northern Orchid:

This book was a joy to read, it captured my imagination straight away and took me on a wonderful journey, delivering on so many levels. It had depth, humour, romance and some graphic descriptions, and it left me sad when I reached the end. However, I was delighted to see that a sequel is currently being written which will include many of the same characters and will be set in the Goldfields of Australia.

I don’t want to give too much away and spoil the book for others, but the author transported me back in time to the 1860’s in Brisbane and along the coast of Queensland and New South Wales. She illuminated the hard life and times of the characters and kept the pace going to the conclusion. It is beautifully written with lovely attention to detail, the characters are powerful and they pulled me into their lives, conveying me back to another world. The period detail was spot on and the emotional lives of the characters were very real and touching. I felt as if I could smell the sea and the steam engine whilst sailing on the Northern Orchid.

I was really drawn into the story and wanted to carry on reading and as a result I am really looking forward to the sequel. Please carry on writing, your first book was a very enjoyable experience.

D. Cogle, Scotland.

Review of Burdekin Heartbeats

Geoff Barlow – Library Science at Charles Sturt University / major in English Literature and winner of the inaugural Zenith Library & Information Science Prize 2001. Geoff has published several mystery and adventure novels including ‘Moonlight Express’.

Another skilfully-evoked historical tale by Australian author Elizabeth Rimmington, author of the brilliantly-realised Shadow of the Northern Orchid and Shadows on the Goldfield Track. This author has that all too rare ability to transport the reader to another time and place, where the present never intrudes. So much of what passes as historical fiction these days is spoiled to a degree by the imposition of modern values on the thought processes, behaviours and actions of key characters. Elizabeth Rimmington never falls into that trap : her characters are real people who ring true to their time period and the choices offered to them. This does not stop

them from being highly-motivated people. Many of them are willing to challenge the status quo, and stand up against the racism, bigotry and misogyny which abounds in their era. What also emerges in this novel is the selfless courage shown by the battlers on the cane farms of North Queensland, the struggles of migrants and first Australians in a rapidly changing society which they are powerless to resist, and the sacrifices of the people who patriotically went off to a war on the other side of the world, a war from which thousands never returned. Highly recommended reading.

Review of Shadow of the Northern Orchid:

Excerpts from By Margaret Bevege Ph.D., (Author of ‘Behind Barbed Wire’, UQP.)

I have just finished reading SHADOW OF THE NORTHERN ORCHID and thought I’d respond with my impressions. The book was an excellent portrait of the Queensland coastal trade and the people who worked it. The geography of the small settlements and the off shore islands was well researched. They say you write best when you write about what you know.

I also thought the descriptions of the sailing activities on the NORTHERN ORCHID were spot on. I found this aspect of the book very convincing. Your description of life at the Mariner’s Rest also rang true.

Review of Shadow of the Northern Orchid:

Geoff Barlow – Library Science at Charles Sturt University / major in English Literature and winner of the inaugural Zenith Library & Information Science Prize 2001. Geoff has published several mystery and adventure novels including ‘Moonlight Express’.

Shadow of the Northern Orchid is an uplifting and thoroughly exhilarating journey to another time and place. Elizabeth Rimmington has captured the very essence of colonial Queensland – the sights, the sounds, the smells – the whole atmosphere rings true and clear on every page and transports the reader straight into that bygone age before modern road and communications systems, when coastal trading ships were the most reliable (and often the only) lifeline for the remote settlements of Australia's north. Adventure and romance are there at every turn and there are elements of Treasure Island in the way this book evokes a world of creaking ship timbers, flapping sails and salt spray (with a dose of newfangled steam power thrown in).

The author’s obviously extensive research and attention to detail are evident throughout. It's a rollicking tale, but the romance of the high seas is always tempered by a clear appreciation of social realities. The harshness and oppression of the 19th century’s social system, which lacked even a basic safety net for young and old alike, is balanced ultimately against the compassion and generosity of good people, qualities that shine through in any age.

Thoroughly recommended reading.

Review of Shadows On The Goldfield Track:

It was great to meet up with the Northern Orchid characters again. They were easily remembered although some time had passed. The section set in London was exciting. Newcomers to Australia are bound to notice differences in landscape, flora and fauna. You do snakes well.

The characters are clearly defined and totally believable. We can relate to them and we want them to succeed. The reader feels the tension, sadness and relief they feel. The settings are well described and the reader can easily place themselves there. I enjoyed reading the book and look forward to your next production.   

Margaret Bevege PhD

Review of Shadows On The Goldfield Track:

Geoff Barlow – Library Science at Charles Sturt University / major in English Literature and winner of the inaugural Zenith Library & Information Science Prize 2001. Geoff has published several mystery and adventure novels including ‘Moonlight Express’.

This is the sequel to Elizabeth Rimmington’s previous book set in colonial Queensland – The Shadow of the Northern Orchid. Some of the characters will be familiar to readers of the earlier book but this sequel is a thoroughly compelling tale in its own right, one which will take the reader on a voyage of discovery to a truly amazing time and place. In the 1870s, the Palmer River goldfield lured thousands of hopeful prospectors on a journey across some of the most inhospitable and dangerous country in Australia. Risking life and limb, they surged out from the fledgling settlement of Cooktown (then called Cook’s Town), with many returning bitter and broken, and some not surviving the return journey.

The author evokes the setting and atmosphere of 19th century Australia with great skill and empathy, transporting the reader seamlessly into both the rugged locations and the mindset of the protagonists. The fate of young Maureen Ryan, who stows away on the Northern Orchid and sets off for the goldfield in search of her father, will have you literally on the edge of your seat. Maureen is disguised as a boy, and seems strong and capable. Her guide, however, is a pack-horse trader called Silas, and it’s by no means certain that he can be trusted. Reader be warned – this book is a real cliff-hanger, right to the last page. You’ll want to race ahead to that final chapter to find out who survives but you won’t, of course, because if you do, you’ll be missing out on some truly wonderful storytelling, some fabulous description of countryside, and some simply stunning similes and metaphors that will take you right into the heart of a great story.

If you like Wilbur Smith, or Peter Watt, or any of the great historical adventure writers, then you’re bound to like Shadows on the Goldfield Track. Thoroughly recommended.

Review of Rhylla's Secret:

"Rhylla’s Secret" is another meticulously-researched and skilfully-evoked historical novel from the prolific pen of Australian author Elizabeth Rimmington. The book carries the author’s trademark dedication to historical accuracy and social realism, though this time in a setting and era much closer to our own time than some of her earlier novels. Where "Shadow of the Northern Orchid" and "Shadows on the Goldfield Track" are set in colonial Queensland in the 1860s and 70s, and "Burdekin Heartbeats" shows the struggles of sugar cane pioneers and other battlers in the decade of the Great War, "Rhylla’s Secret" takes the reader on an epic journey through Northern and Western Queensland in the 1930s and 40s.


"Rhylla’s Secret" explores the hasty choices that are sometimes made by families when confronted with extreme circumstances, and shows particularly how one mistake can gather force and momentum, unleashing an avalanche of heartbreak and tragedy that tumbles on down through the generations. From the Great Depression to World War Two (and beyond); from the subterranean depths of the Mount Isa mines to the sun-scorched plains of the Western Downs; from the social mores of the business and professional class to the knockabout, larrikin spirit of the cattle camp, the author’s command of narrative and setting is consistently deft and sure. Those of us whose parents or grand-parents lived through the World War Two era and were part of the culture of those times will recognize instantly the more formal language that people used when addressing others. A house-keeper would always address their employer as Mrs. or Mr., for example, and would mostly be accorded the same respect in return (on a personal note, I can recall my own grand-mother seldom using given names, except for family members – business people, even quite well-known neighbours, would generally be prefixed with a Mr. or Mrs.).


As with previous novels by this author, the settings, social situations and dialogue ring absolutely true to their time period, while other aspects of the narrative are also brought vividly to life through evocative description, the adept use of metaphor and simile, and a writing style that simply transports the reader, seamlessly and effortlessly, to another time and place.

Thoroughly recommended reading.

 Geoff Barlow

Review of Rhylla's Secret:

The attractive cover photo immediately sets the novel in the cattle industry in the outback.

In the early chapters the initial crime and the reaction are established. The potential for Rhylla and her husband’s chosen solution to go wrong is well signposted. The chapters set in the mine at Mt Isa are convincing. The description of the activities involved in droving a large herd make good reading. The reader feels the tension of dealing with break- away steers, of seeking enough water on the route and of coping with the long hard grind of weeks in the saddle.

The time change from the 1930’s to the post-war period is well handled. The picture of the death of a beloved family member suggests the author has an intimate knowledge of seeing people passing and family grief.

Margaret Bevege

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