Posted 20 hours ago

The Botanist's Daughter

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The Last Reunion is the first book by Australian author Kayte Nunn that I have read and I am already looking out for more. It was a wonderful story of friendships, war, secrets and courage and I read it in less than a day. Told over 2 timelines we learn the women’s stories, as well as the history of the artwork at the centre of it all. Based on true facts, this is a heartwarming and intense look at these women who are not spoken of when discussing the war.

Olivia, is a young Australian and assistant to an art dealer, she meets Beatrix an elderly widow who wishes to sell her late husband's collection of Japanese art, in particular a valuable small intricately carved Japanese netsuke named the fox-girl.

Fast forward to 1999 and Olivia meets Bea as the latter is ready to sell a rare piece of art that was last seen (and stolen) over 30 years ago.

I did find it a little slow & laborious to read though & am not totally sure why. It felt as if all the ingredients were there to make a really good cake but the cake failed to rise. I think probably it is down to the ‘information dumps’ throughout the book because the sections with dialogue flowed a lot more easily.

José Parlá – interview: ‘I was experiencing flashbacks to my dreams from the coma, and I put that into these paintings’

Burma, 1945. Bea, Plum, Bubbles, Joy and Lucy: five young women in search of adventure, attached to the Fourteenth Army, fighting a forgotten war in the jungle. Assigned to run a mobile canteen, navigating treacherous roads and dodging hostile gunfire, they become embroiled in life-threatening battles of their own. Battles that will haunt the women for the rest of their lives. In Victorian England, headstrong adventuress Elizabeth takes up her late father’s quest for a rare, miraculous plant. She faces a perilous sea voyage, unforeseen dangers and treachery that threatens her entire family. This is a humbling show: in this space, humans are not bigger than the creatures and plants we tend to trample on. Instead, we see the consequences of human existence on the very species we need to live. We feel, instinctively, before we quite understand the reasons underpinning this sense, that something is not right. Although it is not immediately obvious that the flies are dead, I am overcome by a wave of sadness, and so look closer. Although I don’t know why a dandelion should worry me, it does so, before I understand that it is somehow contaminated.

When Olivia meets the formidable Beatrix she has no idea what she is getting into as she uncovers secrets from fifty years ago, with Bea opening up about her past and Olivia discovering some old journals and sketches this opens up even more to what these woman had gone through, I loved this story getting to know the woman filled me with lots of emotion, the slipping from past to present was done so well and I felt very much part of the story.

Elisa Giardina Papa: Flock – She Preferred the Lineage of Goats and Ducks

Until I read this book, I knew nothing about the Women’s Auxiliary Service (Burma) and the role played by the women who served the war effort by running canteens to serve the Allied troops during the Burma campaign. Ms Nunn’s book took me into that world, with the hardships of service in the jungle not far from enemy lines and the power of friendship. And weaving between the friendships and the events of 1945 and 1999, is the story of a particular netsuke. The netsuke itself is important both as a hand carved Japanese artefact and because of its story, its journey. Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review. In The Last Reunion she introduces something totally new to me. It is 1945 in Burma and we find women working near the front bringing food and other necessities to the forces fighting there. Apparently these brave women from Australia, New Zealand and the U.K., operating under the acronym WASBIES, really existed and must have really aided the war effort there.

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