I read this a few years ago and wasn’t that taken with it – in fact I gave my copy away. However, recently a friend talked about how much she liked it, so I thought I would give it another go – it did mean buying another copy!
Second time around I have to say I really liked it. I think I was put off it the first time by it being described as an ‘outback Pride and Prejudice‘ because I have to say it is nothing like Pride and Prejudice unless it is in the annoying younger sister way or the not being romantic and settling way (you know Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins).
Here is the blurb …
Summer At Mount Hope is the story of a young woman growing up in rural Victoria, Australia in a time of drought and depression. It is the story of her quest to retain freedom despite the strictures and expectations of family and society.
I’m starting to wonder about Ms Ham because all of her stories are a bit bleak – hilariously funny at times, but bleak none the less. Think about the ending to The Dressmaker – definitely successful revenge, but not what you would call a happy ending.
In this one Phoebe Crupp is living on her parents’ vineyard looking forward to running it herself one day. Times are tough and her sister is desperate to make a good marriage – preferably with the son of the local big land owner. Times are tough and it turns out that the Overton’s (local landowners) have sold a part of their land to Mr Steel (who is acting as the manager). Phoebe falls in lust/love with Mr Steel, but he is not free to marry her. Meanwhile Lilith, Phoebe’s sister, entraps Marius Overton into marriage. Everything goes pear-shaped, the Overtons lose their property and there is nothing for it but for Marius and Lilith to take over the vineyard. Phoebe is devastated she feels that her father has sold her out. She settles for Hadley (a neighbour who has always loved her) and moves away.
This novel is about constraints on women and their inability to control the direction of their lives – a good marriage is the only path to security and even that can go awry (look at Lilith). Phoebe sensible, practical and hard-working is not allowed to run the vineyard. There is an epilogue which implies that Phoebe returns triumphant and takes over, but we, the reader, don’t get to read about it.