Don’t be fooled by the beautiful cover – this debut novel sure packs a punch!
This story follows the extraordinary life of Alice Hart, a young girl born into an abusive and turbulent home. We follow her as the hand of fate carries her beyond her coastal home, first to her grandmother’s flower farm and then onwards. The farm is both literally and figuratively a flower farm – Alice’s grandmother June runs a business selling Australian native flowers across the country, but it is also home to a workforce of women seeking shelter from abusive and broken backgrounds (affectionately called ‘the Flowers’). Alice’s time here is heavy in plot building detail as she learns much of her own family history, and for me felt like a slowing in the whirlwind pace. That being said, the reader is rewarded as Alice’s journey continues on and all these exquisite details resurface. It is both a heartbreaking and an affirming narrative about friendship and how family is often what you make of it, not what you are born into.
I loved the chapter titles and references throughout to Australian native flora – it was a perfect companion to the narrative and particularly towards the end of the novel, such an apt way of framing the significance of plot events. I also loved the recurring references to fairytales (which the afterword notes were Filipino and Bulgarian, among others!), the seamless way that Ringland wove in Indigenous Australian culture and stories, and how heavily the Australian landscape featured almost as a character unto itself.
This was a stunning debut and I cannot wait to see what Ringland writes next! It will make you want to book a ticket over to Australia to explore the beautiful and diverse landscape (and see all these gorgeous flowers for yourself!).