Thank you to Lucy Treloar and Emma Draude of ED PR for my copy of Salt Creek in exchange for an honest review.
In 1855, Stanton Finch decides to leave his failed businesses behind in Adelaide and relocates his family to an isolated farm in Coorong to start over. Stanton is sure that cattle farming is all he needs to get his finances back on track.
His family, having been used to a genteel way of life, are appalled when they arrive at the ramshackle property, built using washed up timber. Despite this setback, they endeavour to try and get on with building a new life here.
Unfortunately, Stanton is an inexperienced, inept farmer and an even worse business man. He soon borrows beyond his means and has no idea about managing the land, which soon becomes run down. The local Aboriginals, the Ngarrindjeri, complain to him about the damage the cattle are doing to the land and particularly to the soaks they need for fresh water. Initially to help, Stanton fences off soaks for the Aboriginals use. Then drought strikes causing him to remove the fences and he tells them to relocate elsewhere as there isn’t enough water for everyone. It is interesting to note that Stanton, a god fearing man, believes that the Aboriginals can be ‘civilised’. He takes on the project of educating and training a young half-caste Aboriginal boy called Tully, who quickly integrates into the family and serves as an interpreter for his own people. (You will definitely want to find out what intrigue this creates!)
Hester (Life in Salt Creek)
Salt Creek follows the family through a downward spiral in their fortunes as their existence becomes more and more difficult. Hester, the oldest daughter is the narrator, recounting the events of those years from her current home. She is lumbered with handling most of the chores and cooking as her mother battles to cope with her new life. Hester also takes on teaching Tully and the younger children. Despite the hardships, this family do experience some happy times as the family makes its own fun. Hester comes to appreciate the beauty of Coorong especially after she meets Charles, a young surveyor travelling through the area with his father. (Could there be a romance brewing?)
The author doesn’t hold back and gives an authentic narration of what life was like for both the settlers and the local people. Salt Creek is a gripping tale and you will find yourself fully immersed in the background of this story as if you were living it yourself. You will feel a range of emotions from one extreme to the other as you read further into this book.
I really loved this book. As well as telling Hester’s journey, it documents the difficulties naive Europeans experienced with farming in Australia and their complete disregard of the knowledge of the local Aboriginals, who could have taught them much about agriculture and land conservation/preservation.
Lucy Treloar has done an excellent job of described the traditions of the Ngarrindjeri and in describing their fate as a result of the incursion of uninvited Europeans into their lands. She has really captured the essence of historical life in the Coorong.
This is beautifully written historical fiction and I would highly recommend Salt Creek to all who enjoy this genre, especially if you have an interest in early Australian history.
This beautifully written book deserves