New South Wales, 1972. Following the death of her beloved Aunt Hilda, widow Clare Barclay inherits Bellevue, an historic property in the Blue Mountains township of Numballa, Australia. Giving up her teaching job to move to the mountains, Clare plans to restore the house to its original glory. She also hopes to track down a box of missing documents that may shed light on why husband Jack secretly second-mortgaged their former home.
Clare makes friends with the locals, including a young boy, Joe, and soon hears of plans to redevelop Numbulla and to exploit the land bordering the protected wilderness area. As she joins the protest against the rezoning, it’s clear someone doesn’t want her there and they’ll do anything to stop her…
Written from Clare’s and Joe’s perspectives, Bellevue highlights cross-generational bonds that grow between them as they struggle, individually and together, towards an acceptance of the losses each has sustained.
Born in Australia, Alison Booth gained a degree in architecture before transferring to economics. She is Professor Emeritus of Economics with a PhD from the London School of Economics and spent over two decades living and working in the UK before returning to Australia. She wrote her first novel at the age of nine, before other distractions set in.
Alison’s seventh published novel, Bellevue, will be out in March 2023. Her previous novels were published by Penguin and RedDoor. Her fiction has been translated into French and her short stories have appeared in international publications including Antipodes and New Writing. Awards include a Varuna Longlines Fellowship from the Eleanor Dark Foundation and the Highly Commended Award in the 2011 ACT Book of the Year Award. Her novels are: Stillwater Creek, The Indigo Sky, A Distant Land, A Perfect Marriage, The Philosopher’s Daughters and The Painting. For more information visit: https://www.alisonbooth.net/home
My thoughts: this was a really interesting book about community, friendship, outsiders and the environment. Clare inherits her late husband’s aunt’s house Bellevue in the small New South Wales town of Numballa. Hoping to build a new life and a permanent home for herself there, she finds that all is not well. Silent phone calls, vague threats, a car accident that probably isn’t an accident. Someone is trying to drive her away.
As the battle for the wilderness at the edge of her land heats up, she finds that she’s not alone. Other members of the local conservation group are also being harassed and frightened but Clare won’t give up.
She also meets Joe, a young boy with a love of birds, who draws beautiful pictures of them. Befriending him and offering him a safe space to work on his art, Clare expands her new world again.
Joe is struggling, after his mother’s death, left with an often absent older brother and a father who drinks too much, he’s a sensitive, artistic soul. Afraid to tell anyone except the local librarian of his passion, he’s sneaking into Clare’s hayloft to draw. Their unlikely friendship is a delight to read about. As Joe comes out of his shell, things seem to look up for his family too.
There’s a lot of heart in this book, and as Clare finds her place in Numballa, making friends and campaigning to save the wilderness, she slowly comes back to life after years in survival mode.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.