17 January 2010

Stillwater Creek

by Alison Booth

Random House Australia. Australian, Adult Other. Paperback rrp $32.95

Ilona and Zidra Talivadis (mother and 9-year-old daughter) have moved to Jingera, south of Sydney, after the death of Ilona’s husband and Zidra’s father. Ilona has survived many tragedies – the death camp in Latvia; the refugee camp in the UK and then the move to a better life in Australia; the unexpected death of her husband. But will she find peace for herself and Zidra in Jingera? Does this beachside village hold happiness for the lonely but lovely refugee who travels with a piano?

It is 1957. The war has long ended but there are still many things that trouble Ilona – the communists coming into power in Russia; the language and pronunciation barrier between her, her daughter and their community and being a single and independent young woman in a tiny town.

Ilona soon learns the harsh realities of life in a small coastal town in Australia - prejudice, the narrow mindset of the people, the intense summer heat and bush fires.

But there is also the casual and relaxed lifestyle of Jingera and the different personalities such as Peter Vincent, a former prisoner-of-war and local farmer and Cherry Bates, the publican’s wife who becomes one of Ilona’s pupil. Finally Ilona feels she and Zidra are safe and allows herself to enjoy life in the sleepy village. But something dark is brooding amongst the inhabitants. Jingera offers a false sense of security and the town’s folk will be shocked by actions of some of the people they know.

Stillwater Creek is a story of Ilona’s struggle to survive against both man and nature. Her strong determination and the love for her daughter keep her going.

This is a wonderful read and with a sequel in the works I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

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