Review: Spirits of the Ghan by Judy Nunn

For anyone who has read this novel, there is no denying one simple truth. Judy Nunn is genuinely passionate about the things she writes about--Australian history, people and politics--and she isn't afraid to give readers a genuinely strong female lead. Spirits of the Ghan tells about a small moment in Australian history--the construction of the Adelaide-Darwin Railway line--and brings with it a story of spirituality and a tiny dash of romance. Jess Manning is a young woman of mixed Aboriginal and Irish decent who has been hired as a negotiator to work with the local elders to ensure that all sacred sites are protected. Matt Witherton is a surveyor working on the line. Nunn avoids all the usual tropes and brings the pair together in a very different way--through a shared connection with the land and its people.

The story moves between the past and present to tell the story of a past wrong that Jess and Matt have to work together to put right. At times, the story felt rather fanciful and melodramatic, and there are many parts where the story lacks depth (Matt's relationship with Angie is one classic example, as is the turn of events that ends it.) There is no denying that Nunn re-tells Australian history in a way that makes it accessible to a wider audience. I suspect many who would rather pick up a Mills & Boon than a textbook would be pleasantly surprised by Nunn's writing style.

Overall, an easy read.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017


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