Having gained her agricultural qualifications, Amanda Greenfield is keen to help her parents manage the family farm. But when her mother is killed in a terrible accident, Amanda’s father loses all interest and allows the farm to fall into disrepair.
As he falls into alcoholism and turns all blame to her, Amanda faces some major challenges in the times ahead. Firstly, convincing her disbelieving father that she is capable of running the farm, and then proving to herself that she can build it up to once again be a profitable business.
This task will see her tackle the loss of animals, crops and profit, fight against enemies old and new, and come across mysteries she never knew existed.
As she works hard and puts her all into managing the property, Amanda must come to grips with the loss of her mother amid more family tragedies and personal demons.
The question of love is also on her mind, with the neighbouring farmer showing more than a little interest in her. But Amanda’s heart is elsewhere and she is fearful of losing her independence; should she settle for someone safe, well-off and reliable, or follow her desires? And does this other man feel the same way?
Following Amanda’s current and future challenges is only part of the story, however. Amongst this current day storyline, we are given snippets into life pre-World War II and the tragic secrets of a past generation that threaten to ruin Amanda’s future.
This is a story that, at first glance, appears to promise plenty of romance, seduction, damsels in distress and heroic men saving the day. Perhaps it’s the description of a ‘sweeping saga’ that gives this impression, or maybe the cover image showing an uncertain-looking woman gazing into the distance – or both.
Whatever the reason, I was so relieved that this was most definitely not the case.
Author Fleur McDonald’s grounded nature keeps this story firmly in the realms of reality, with the creation of a well-rounded main character. Amanda is an independent woman with determination and clear goals, yet she also experiences moments of self-doubt and the need for companionship and reliance on others.
McDonald is obviously passionate about farming, and readers find this infectious. Her ability to weave an easy-to-read story amidst the ups and downs of farming life grips the reader into the world of everything from floods to drought, achievements to devastating losses.
Every time I picked up the book, I found myself instantly transported into that world, right alongside Amanda as her life turned into a battle between her determination and those out to prove her incompetent.
This is a tale of loyalty, determination, families, friendships and life on the land. Although it’s quite predictable, it is a story that readers will find enjoyable.
More importantly, Blue Skies does what all good fiction should: takes readers outside their reality, opening their eyes to an unfamiliar world.
Title: Blue Skies
Author: Fleur McDonald
Category: Popular fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Publication Date: April 2010