Title: Hope Farm
Author: Peggy Frew
Published: September 28th 2015
Genre: Contemporary, Coming of Age
Length: 343 pages
Source: Paperback from the publisher
Book Blurb (via Goodreads):
‘They were inescapable, the tensions of the adult world — the fraught and febrile aura that surrounded Ishtar and those in her orbit, that whined and creaked like a wire pulled too tight.’
It is the winter of 1985. Hope Farm sticks out of the ragged landscape like a decaying tooth, its weatherboard walls sagging into the undergrowth. Silver’s mother, Ishtar, has fallen for the charismatic Miller, and the three of them have moved to the rural hippie commune to make a new start.
At Hope, Silver finds unexpected friendship and, at last, a place to call home. But it is also here that, at just thirteen, she is thrust into an unrelenting adult world — and the walls begin to come tumbling down, with deadly consequences.
Hope Farm is the masterful second novel from award-winning author Peggy Frew, and is a devastatingly beautiful story about the broken bonds of childhood, and the enduring cost of holding back the truth.
When initially reading about this book, I was super intrigued to read about the almost nomadic lifestyle of the main character as she was growing up, moving from commune to commune and not really understanding the world around her as she went. I was looking forward to exploring the relationship between Silver and her mother as they finally seemed to settle in one place, Hope Farm. Going into this one, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as it’s not something I’ve ever really read before, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it hard to put down.
Silver is older now, looking back on her life as a thirteen year old girl stuck with her mother, moving from place to place and never really settling down. As Silver wishes for things to be different, for it to be just Ishtar (her mother) and her, they find themselves at Hope Farm, thanks to the ever charismatic Miller, who is Ishtar’s latest man.
I found it so interesting to read about their lifestyle from the point of view of Silver, being such a young age. It had the wide-eyed innocence of a child and yet the hard-learned knowledge of someone used to living a much more mature life young. Exploring her relationships at that age, Silver leads us through that fateful year at Hope Farm where things seemed to be settling down and becoming routine for her and her mother.
The great thing about this book is that it has a dual perspective. So, not only do we have Silver retelling her memories, but there’s also small passages that tell a different side to the story throughout too. The different takes on specific events was sometimes heartbreaking. Ishtar was a teen mother who just wanted to keep her baby in an age when being forced to give the child up was the done thing. Having made that decision, she’s fought every day since to make things good for her child, sometimes sacrificing her relationship with Silver in the process.
I found it a really interesting look into what life in a commune was like, specifically ones in decline versus ones that were more active in the community. I loved discovering the different characters through the eyes of Silver as a child and also in her retelling, where she wonders if her perceptions were perhaps more skewed than she’d like to admit.
The ending was not what I had expected – although, looking back, I’m not sure where I thought things were going. The story is a slow build to the last one hundred pages and then it’s one thing after another thrown at you as you try to keep up with what’s happening. It’s such a bittersweet ending.
This was definitely something different and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having never read anything like this before, I found it interesting and enlightening. Something a little off the beaten path for me, I’d highly recommend it to others wanting to give something different a go.
About the Author
Peggy Frew’s debut novel, House of Sticks, won the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Her story ‘Home Visit’ won The Age short story competition. She has been published in New Australian Stories 2, Kill Your Darlings, The Big Issue, and Meanjin. Peggy is also a member of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Melbourne band Art of Fighting.
Hope Farm is her latest novel, published in 2015.
*Picture and Biography from Goodreads