“Part historical fiction, part intelligent thriller, part romance … Very compelling.”


Judy Nunn’s sweeping Australian saga had me enthralled from the first chapter. This story is about two generations of sugar producing dynasty set at the turn of the 20th century and in 1960’s Bundaberg. As with all Judy Nunn’s books, it is well researched and uses real names and places, so that you feel part of the story, especially if you’ve been to these places.
This story is about Big Jim Durham and how he married Elianne Desmarais, a French girl and of whom the plantation, Elianne was named after. It is of generations of the family with wealth and normal trials and tribulations of a family with power and a livelihood wrapped around their family business. As with many families, Jim and Ellie’s children show no interest, for many reasons, in running the family business; but it skips a generation to where the grandchildren take over. Mixed between many stories the grandchildren have been told and the reputation the sugar plantation stands for; they run Elianne. Then they discover old diaries that their Grandmother, Elianne wrote, secretly in French, so that her husband Jim couldn’t read them. The revelations of these diaries change everyone’s prospective to all they have ever known their whole lives. It opens up old wounds and changes everything they have ever known about their family and beloved Elianne.

The history of Australia at the turn of the century and then again in the 1960’s makes this a fascinating read. It covers the Vietnam War to the Pill, Rock ‘n’ roll and immigration. I was intrigued by how a large family business includes so many people, towns and their livelihoods. All the workers who relied on the sugar plantation and how every decision Big Jim and then his descendants make about the family and business filters down to effect so many people.
I find that all of Judy Nunn’s novels follow her typical signature format; but am always amazed by how much information and history she researches and includes in her books. I learn quite a bit of recent Australian history and feel that it is being told by a good friend, not an author. Whether it is because we know Ms Nunn so well from her acting days or that she simply handles her subject matter so well and passes on this information through her books – that we secretly feel like someone who ‘knows’ is revealing this information privately to us, the readers.
The book is 576 pages and a fairly typical epic Australiana tale; but very enjoyable in the writing of Judy Nunn, who draws you in to the private lives of big wealthy families, filled with history and letting us in to their private lives. A little tall poppy, a little living vicariously through the preconceived lives of this wealthy Queensland family – but very enjoyable all the same.


Reviewed by:

Pam Tupper

Added 27th October 2020