Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet).
Cathryn Hein’s latest rural fiction release, The Falls, could easily be described as “not too heavy, not too light” – sometimes that’s just what you need when looking for a book. Here’s the blurb:
For as long as she can remember, Teagan Bliss has wanted to manage her family’s property. She’s invested everything in the farm, knowing that when her parents retire she’ll be ready to take the reins. But when a family betrayal leaves her reeling, Teagan is forced to rethink her entire future.
Heartbroken, Teagan flees to her aunt’s property in the idyllic Falls Valley. Vanessa is warm and welcoming and a favourite of the locals who drop in regularly for cocktail hour. Teagan soon catches the attention of sexy local farrier Lucas Knight, and with a new job, new friends and the prospect of a new relationship, she slowly begins to open up again.
But the village is a hotbed of gossip and division and when Teagan gets caught up in town politics, Lucas and Vanessa become concerned. As the tension in town escalates, Teagan must decide who to trust. But when she realises those close to her have been keeping secrets, the fallout may split Teagan apart forever.
Hein’s latest novel packages romance with themes of betrayal, trust and starting over, as well as exploring the experience and impact of depression. However, the novel is described by its publisher as “uplifting”, which I’m not sure is the best description. Certainly Teagan hangs on to hope for a better future for much of the story, but I didn’t feel uplifted while reading – not until the very end. Instead, I felt affected by Teagan’s sadness, hurt and mistrust; her depression (and denial), her behaviour, and the concern others feel for her, colours the book with shades of grey. Romantic interest Lucas and Teagan’s aunt Vanessa are bright spots in the story, but at times they are overshadowed by Teagan’s character. Such can be the beast that is depression.
True to the rural/small-town genre, The Falls has a good emphasis on community, on working together, and small-town values and politics. Hein works these elements in well through village opposition to the proposed expansion of the Wellness Centre (which could bring in bad eggs and riff-raff) and the inclusion of a village cricket team. There are gossips and trouble-makers, well-doers and out-of-towners, as well as comical elements of Merlin the battering ram and Blanche, the cat whose fish breath makes Teagan shudder.
As I mentioned, The Falls is not too heavy, not too light. Was it just right? I think it will be for many of Hein’s fans. For me, it was a good read, but it didn’t quite hit the love-it spot.
Available from good bookshops and Penguin Books Australia (RRP $32.99). My copy was courtesy of Penguin Books Australia.