Aussie Book Review: The Saddler Boys by Fiona Palmer
“Schoolteacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead.
When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew.
As Nat's school comes under threat of closure, and Billy's estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her society life in Perth and the rural community that needs her, Nat must risk losing it all to find out what she's really made of – and where she truly belongs.”
In this city girl meets outback rural community story, Fiona Palmer once again breathes life into both her characters and the small country town of Lake Biddy in regional Western Australia, highlighting societal issues of substance abuse, domestic violence, child abandonment and the pressure placed on our smaller communities with the closure of regional schools.
Twenty-two year old city girl Natalie (Nat) arrives in Lake Biddy to take up a teaching posting at the local town school. She is so excited at the prospect of finally being able to do what she has dreamed of since finishing her degree – teaching her very own class and making the classroom her own.
What Natalie doesn’t count on is the fact that the townsfolk, the school and the Saddler boys, Billy and his dad Drew, are going to draw her into their lives and make her question exactly where it is she belongs.
After reading most of Fiona Palmer’s books, it’s not hard to establish why I keep coming back for more. In terms of character, her supporting cast are always amazing, increasing not only the depth of the story but also adding a third dimension to her heroes and heroines.
In this instance, she has given us Nat and we see her grow immeasurably as she is faced not only with having to deal with an issue that may not have reared its ugly head had she not taken the time to move away from all that is familiar to her but also the way in which she gets involved in assisting the school to overcome the threat of closure.
Child characters can also be a challenge to write effectively and I think I’ve said before in one of my reviews that not all authors get this right – Fiona, however, does this with ease which makes it quite obvious that she has been influenced by children she knows. She develops Billy realistically by giving him some great page time that showcases his innocence, impulsivity and intelligence and I became so attached to him that, like Nat, I wanted to shelter him from any further hurt – Billy truly stole my heart!
Another aspect that Fiona does well is that of setting. She is one of those authors whose writing makes me want to visit the towns she populates because she does such a great job of transporting this reviewer directly into her story right from the first page. As she explores the issues that plague not only our regional farming communities, but the broader ones that plague society in general, she deftly balances her stories to include her vast knowledge of farming practices as well as the sights, sounds and smells of small town country life.
A talented author, whose books always leave a smile on my face, Fiona has once again penned a heart-warming story with endearing characters, giving us a story about how sometimes we need to risk it all to find out exactly where we belong.
Whilst a rural romance at heart, this one will emphasise just how subtle domestic abuse can in fact be and Fiona’s fans will no doubt enjoy sinking their proverbial teeth into it. For those of you who are new to her writing, The Saddler Boys would be a great place to start.
I wish to thank the publisher, Penguin Australia, for providing me with a hard copy for review.
About the Author
Fiona Palmer lives in the tiny rural town of Pingaring in Western Australia, three and a half hours south-east of Perth.
She discovered Danielle Steel at the age of eleven, and has now written her own brand of rural romance.
Fiona has attended romance writers' groups and received an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her first novel, The Family Farm.
She has extensive farming experience, does the local mail run, and was a speedway-racing driver for seven years.
Fiona spends her days writing, working as a farm hand, helping out in the community and looking after her two children.