Friday, April 12, 2013

Mini Review: Woody Creek series (1-5) by Joy Dettman

On a balmy midsummer's evening in 1923, a young woman – foreign, dishevelled and heavily pregnant – is found unconscious just off the railway tracks in the tiny logging community of Woody Creek.

The town midwife, Gertrude Foote, is roused from her bed when the woman is brought to her door. Try as she might, Gertrude is unable to save her, but the baby lives.

When no relatives come forth to claim the infant, Gertrude's daughter Amber – who has recently lost a son in childbirth – and her husband Norman take the child in. In the ensuing weeks, Norman becomes convinced that God has sent the baby to their door, and in an act of reckless compassion and lonely desperation, he names the baby Jennifer and registers her in place of his son.

Loved by some but scorned by more, including her stepmother and sister, Jenny survives her childhood and grows into an exquisite and talented young woman. But who were her parents?

Spanning two momentous decades and capturing rural Australia's complex and mysterious heart, Pearl in a Cage is the unputdownable new novel by one of our most talented storytellers.

In the first book to Joy Dettman's "Woody Creek" series, we have a bunch of residents of a small town in Victoria, Australia lives a midwife who one night in 1923 stumbles upon a young pregnant woman about to give birth.
Having no choice, midwife, Gertrude is forced to deliver the child into this world. Soon after, the mother passes away and Gertrude decides to give the child to her daughter, Amber and her husband who recently lost a child of their own.
During the course of this book we see as the child named Jenny grows up and how the residents of Woody Creek respond to her in their lives. This is the story of a young girl, her family and the people of this town as they interconnect to one another.

Joy is such a fantastic, descriptive storyteller. I haven't seen anything like it before. The way she describes certain things and the small town of Woody Creek --- it's obvious that she has had experience in small rural towns growing up.
The people in this town are so connected. Some in good ways and some in bad. We travel on the journey as we discover a vital moment in Jenny's life where things start to become haywire for her. And that is the very moment that changes the course not only for her, but her family and the entire town.
When one person experiences something; the whole town does.
I really felt for Jenny so much. This book concludes when she is 14 years old, and she has not had the easiest of times. Her relationship with her sister and mother could not be any worse than it already is. It's her grandmother Gertrude and father,  Norman who are her light in her life. The only sort of normalcy she can have.

This was a different sort of book than what I was used to, but when I was approached to review this book from Pan Macmillan, I decided to expand out of my normal genres and give something new a shot. I was pleasantly surprised. I don't often read Australian books although this as it turns out I liked more than I thought I would.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

It is 1939 and Jenny Morrison, distraught and just fifteen years of age, has fled the tiny logging community of Woody Creek for a new life in the big smoke.

But four months later she is back - wiser, with an expensive new wardrobe, and bearing another dark secret...

She takes refuge with Gertrude, her dependable granny and Woody Creek's indomitable midwife, and settles into a routine in the ever-expanding and chaotic household.

But can she ever put the trauma of the past behind her and realize her dream of becoming a famous singer? Or is she doomed to follow in the footsteps of her tragic and mysterious mother?

After skipping town before anyone knew it, Jenny returns four months later with a secret and with a new vibe about her. She has new clothes with a new attitude, but there is something dark hidden beneath her tough exterior.
The life of Jenny has not been an easy one. After she arrives back in town after months of being away, she comes and stays with her grandmother, but soon enough, Jenny finds himself in the midst of drama once again. She finds herself pregnant once again after a brief relationship with Laurie, who she met in Melbourne.
After not wanting the child at first, Jenny soon changes her mind once Georgie is born. She may be not much older than her first child, but she is a little bit more mature at this point and she knows what she wants.

Her sister, Sissy finds herself engaged to her long-time crush, Jim but she soon becomes crushed when Jim calls off the engagement to be with Jenny, who he has become requainted with after being childhood friends.

Lots of things occur between Amber and her husband, Norman. The relationship between them has always been an unpredictible one. A crazy and unhealthy one at that. Things I was shocked at.

This was a great installment to this historical series. I look forward to see what is next for Jenny and the gang from Woody Creek.

Jenny Morrison is bravely trying to move on with her life. With her husband missing amidst the turmoil of WWII she takes refuge with Ray King, a slightly sinister, stuttering boy who disappeared from Woody Creek as a teenager but has now reappeared. In return for regular wifely duties, Ray offers Jenny and her three children sanctuary at his house in Melbourne. For a time, she is happy.But then Jennys father the philandering impresario Archie Foote storms back into her world and chaos reigns again. Archie recognises Jennys brilliance and offers her a second chance a way to escape the domestic drudgery and finally fulfil her dream. But when you have three children, one missing husband and another with a dark secret, dreams have a habit of turning into nightmares

After the presumed death of her husband, Jim, Jenny gets taken in by Ray King who s determined to take care of Jenny and her kids. Ray is someone who disappeared from Woody Creek years ago but now has returned.

I wasn't a big fan of Ray especially with the way he treated Jenny. I think he might have meant well, but I think he was also quite insecure in knowing that Jenny didn't love him as he loved her.
Trouble soon arrives in the form of Jenny's biological father, Archie Foote who also happens to be the ex-husband to Gertrude and father to Amber. This revelation only makes the connection between Jenny, Amber and Gertrude even more confusing than it was originally.

While this wasn't as good as the others, it was nice story to see what was going on with the families of Woody Creek. The cliffhanger we are left with this book only makes you want to pick up the next book in this series.

A great series with amazing characterizations. Jenny's life has not gotten any better as she is dealt with one blow after another. Will she ever find happiness longer than a few months? Will the drama ever stop? Hopefully we'll know the answer to that question soon enough.

Rating: 3 out of 5

The wind is whispering in Woody Creek...Change is in the air

It's 1958 and Woody Creek is being dragged kicking and screaming into the swinging sixties.

Jenny's daughters, Cara and Georgie, are now young women. They have inherited their mother's hands, but that is where their similarity ends. Raised separately, they have never met.
A mistake from Cara's teenage years looms over her future, but she believes emphatically in the white wedding and happily ever after myth. Georgie has seen enough of marriage and motherhood. She plans to live her life as her grandmother did, independent of a man.

But life for the Morrison girls has never been easy, and once the sisters are in each other's lives, long-buried secrets are bound to be unearthed, the dramatic consequences of which no-one could have predicted...

This is the first book that follows Jenny's daughters as main characters in this series. The two girls have grown up differently from one another. Cara was adopted out when she was born not fully knowing her birth parents.
Georgie has seen what marriage does to people and tells herself that she won't go down the same path that her mother did, but instead will take the road her grandmother did, surviving without a man.

Joy dettman does an amazing job with these characters and the new aspect she has brought along with this series. As the time speeds forward we get to see characters age and mature as they go through different aspects of life. Not only do we see where Jenny is, but how her relationship is with her children.
Cara grew up in Sydney and when she falls for a boy from her past, the identity of who he really is will shock her to the core. I know I was shocked and could not believe that had happened, or what I would do in a situation like that.

Georgie finds herself amongst the affections of Teddy and soon enough, the consequences of her actions seem a little too similar of her mother.

This is another great installment, though you can feel the series is slowly winding down. The shift in characters from Jenny, to her daughters gives you that feeling.

Georgie and Cara soon find their lives connecting as they meet for the first time, as Cara wants to get to know the family that she never got to know. But sometimes... the truth won't always be what you want to hear, or like.

This book contains one of the craziest cliffhanger endings I have read. Hearts will break and mouths will drop open in the final pages of this installment.

Can't wait to see how things will progress from this point on.

Woody Creek is gearing up for its centenary celebrations – but for many of its townspeople, it's just another reminder of the old days, when life was more simple, before so-called progress, technology and a growing population roared through the town, altering everything in its wake.

Not for Georgie though. Long encumbered by responsibility for her half-sister Margot, she's looking towards the future and more changes. Not having managed to move on from running Charlie's grocery store yet, as the clock ticks over to 1970, she's determined that the time has come.

She's not the only one of Jenny's children who's grown up and is moving on. As a six year old, little Jimmy Morrison was stolen from Woody Creek by his grandfather, and is now further away than ever from his estranged birth mother and sisters. Having inherited an estate in the United Kingdom, he's determined to make a new life for himself. If only he could shake off his one terrible attachment to Australia...

For Cara, Woody Creek has been the source of the most devastating news of her life, and a terrible mistake that cannot be undone. She's vowed never to step foot into the place again. But the old timber town has a way of getting under people's skins. And as it draws the much loved cast of Woody Creek characters back into its grip, confessions, discoveries and truths seem set to explode in the most dramatic of showdowns.

In the newest installment, Joy Dettman does not hold back on anything. This novel goes on to show how Cara deals with the fallout of the revelation made to her on her wedding night. It's one shocking thing after another. She is determined not to go back to Woody Creek, but as things turn out... you can't run from what is to be.

Georgie is also someone on an interesting path in life, as she is determined to do something more with her life than just working in a small town grocery store. Her life is about to start and there is nothing and nobody that will stop her, not even responsibilities to her younger sister, Margot.

It's 1970's. the time for change. The time for doing something special.  The two girls aren't the only one who have things going on in their lives, Jenny's missing son, Jimmy has returned to town after being taken by his grandfather.
After inheriting an estate, he has determined to make a new life for himself.. but there is just one thing that he can't seem to shake, and that lies in Australia in the form of a girl he fell in love with. A girl who is now forbidden to him... who always was but just didn't know it.

In the second to last book of this series, Jenny's children has grown and Jenny herself has been through more than her fair share of trauma in her life. Things are winding down.
I felt so bad for Margot. Her mother never wanted her, and even says that Margot is her biggest mistake and regret. I think that is a poor thing to say. Yes, the circumstances around her birth are not ideal and would not wish that kind of thing on anyone, but to blame a child for something like that isn't the way to go.  And the outcome of Margot.. I bet she never felt loved by  Jenny, because she never loved her at all. Not like her other children.

I look forward to see the end of this series. To see how this series will close. This is such a unique and beautifully written set of stories. Joy Dettman is one of a kind with a knack of storytelling unlike anyone else.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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