A perfect read for a lazy summer day.
As with many of the fiction books by the 2015 NSW Excellence in Midwifery Award winner, Fiona McArthur, the setting of The Bush Telegraph, is outback Australia. In this story, it is the tiny town of Spinifex in rural Queensland and the romance is between Connor and Maddy.
The novel is slow to begin with, feeling almost lacklustre when compared to some of McArthur’s previous prose. The beginning chapters are verbose and don’t add significant value to the story; they would have benefited with a rewrite or heavy editing.
Despite this unpromising start, like any good soapie, by the end of the novel I found myself crying and fully engaged with the characters. The backstory of both characters gradually unfolds through a series of dialogues and with shifts in first person perspective from Connor to Maddy throughout; both have reputations to clear.
In this story, Connor had returned to Spinifex to take care of his mother after leaving behind a failed marriage in Sydney. Soon after is where the novel begins, when Maddy returns to Spinifex. She escaped the town when her daughter Bridget was born there eleven years ago.
The Bush Telegraph is aptly named as it is largely responsible for making them wary of each other at first. It is this, as well as their own personal baggage, that makes both hesitant for more, despite their initial attraction to each other.
The series of events from their initial encounter does feel slightly overdone, being almost too cliche to be believable. Nevertheless, as the novel progresses it loses its relevance as McArthur keeps you riveted to the text with the pace of the book quickening; and it becomes exciting, saddening, and romantic all at once.
You can always guarantee with any of McArthur’s romance books that there is a happy ending. Her novels are brilliant summer holiday reads and for those book club enthusiasts, if it is your turn to choose the next book, you’ll be pleased to know there are ready-made questions at the end.
Reviewed by Rebecca Wu
Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: September 2020