Books & Literature

Book Review: Wildflowers, by Peggy Frew

GENERAL FICTION: A compassionate and surprisingly funny novel that is impossible to put down and even harder to forget, from the award-winning author of Islands.

A novel of rare perfection.

Australian author Peggy Frew has won, or been short-listed for, a swag of literary awards, both national and international. So a new novel from her is always a treat.

The plot of Wildflowers revolves around three sisters. Meg is sensible, authoritative, and fiercely loyal. Nina is artistic, deep, and delicate. Amber is luminous, extraordinarily talented, and utterly chaotic. She has also, from the age of about 14, been a junkie. Now in their 30s, Meg decides it is time to take Amber in hand with some tough love. She persuades Nina to join her in tricking Amber into a trip to Far North Queensland which, rather than a holiday, will turn into an intervention and homemade rehab. Nina goes along with it, but reluctantly.

And yet this is really Nina’s story. We see things from her point of view, right from the opening chapters, which leave us wondering what is going on in Nina’s world, while she attempts to help get her younger sister off the gear. The novel’s near-perfect structure returns to Nina at the end, picking up the threads of her own distress, and tying them up, if not neatly, at least reasonably securely.

Frew’s writing is nothing short of sublime. Wildflowers doesn’t pull any punches, about family, about relationships, about mental distress, or about loving an addict. All three of the main characters are drawn with a realism and attention to detail that almost takes the breath away. And although the story is told from Nina’s perspective, the other two sisters’ individual voices come through clearly. Other characters, such as the girls’ parents, or Nina’s various lovers, are just as carefully outlined, and just as touchingly real.

This is a work that delivers moments to make a reader cringe, laugh, gasp, and actually cry (or am I just a sook?). Frew places her intricate family portrait against various backdrops, but in particular, the unique sights, sounds, smells, and oppressive weather of FNQ. Each description, told as it is from a character’s point of view, adds to both our sense of place, and our understanding of that character. Nothing is out-of-place or redundant in Frew’s writing. This is a novelist working at her peak, with clearly an excellent editor alongside her.

Wildflowers is a gripping read. It is also authentically moving. This is a book that will stay with you long after you have reluctantly said goodbye to Meg, Nina, and Amber.

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: August 2022
RRP: $32.99

More News

To Top