Skylark by Jenny Pattrick. A new novel from the author of the best-selling The Denniston Rose. The little French girl, Lily Alouette, was singing and dancing almost as soon as she could walk, and performing became as much a part of her as breathing. When she is left an orphan in an unfamiliar country after her parents have emigrated to the goldfields, it is performing in a circus that offers survival. Later she takes to the stage in both Australia and New Zealand, which is where she attracts the attention of two men. One is the faithful Jack Lacey; the other is the renowned pirate Bully Hayes. While Jack has to compete with both Bully and the theatre to win Lily's attention, Lily finds she must share Jack, too. This lively, unconventional love story is set amid real figures from nineteenth-century theatre, giving a vivid and entertaining picture of the life of actors and circus performers, of gold miners, of horse breeders, of colonial settlers. Filtered through a unique and intriguing narrative, it is page-turning, heart-warming and full of surprises.
My reading challenge for May was supposed to be something from the crime genre, but I so thoroughly enjoyed Wolf Hall that I decided to keep going with historical fiction. That and the fact that I received a reading copy of Skylark from the wonderful people of Random House.
Though I've been living here in New Zealand for 10 years, I haven't read any fiction novels written by a Kiwi author. Thankfully, Jenny Pattrick's book was a nice introduction. Skylark is beautifully written - Pattrick transports you easily into the goldrush period. It gives you a vivid insight into the lives of miners, theatre and circus performers and settlers at that time.
I guess only true book lovers would appreciate this little nugget that I'm to share next, but anyway, I quite liked how the chapters were set into acts, as if it were a stage show, and adding to the feel of it was the use of carnival-esque font types. The table of contents is even set out like a playbill, a charming feature. As a whole, it had given me a glimpse into what a treat I was in for.
Lily is one of those headstrong characters that you cannot help but fall in love with. As Lily grows into womanhood, I found she was slightly reminiscent of Margaret Mitchell's Scarlet O'Hara. Lily's story is very unique, and controversial for the period she is in. As the story progresses, you can't help but forget that Lily is a fictional character, especially since the book is peppered with real people from the nineteenth century.
It's not my usual kind of read, but I did enjoy it. Lily's character flaws add to her charm, the settings come alive with Jenny Pattrick's striking descriptions, though I must admit Jack Lacey's devotion to Lily seems far too intense for something that had too little groundwork.
Guess which book I'll be trying to sell as Christmas presents for mum and nana this year?