Recently, I read this gripping and jagged book by Peggy Frew. Originally I loved the name of the book, it sort of intrigued me but when I started to turn the pages it clearly became the characters that engaged me from the very beginning. It is Peggy Frew’s second novel, her first was the ‘House of Sticks’ in 2010.
The story follows the lives of Ishtar and her daughter Silver. Ishtar a young mother, clearly struggles but strives, sometimes with success and sometimes not, to raise her daughter in a rural hippie environment. There is a strong focus on women and a compelling and sometimes agonising look into the developmental life of Silver who is often faced with circumstances where risk and deprivation lurk close to home.
This book is structurally fascinating. It moves from present to past in a way that allows the reader to appreciate the life journey that Ishtar is thrust into. In my view, the book cleverly exposes the psychological underpinnings of the story in order to emphasise the impact of how early trauma and lack of support plays out in some people’s lives.
I was thrilled to hear that Peggy Frew was awarded the 2016 ‘Barbara Jefferis Award’, presented biennially by the Australian Society of Authors, for ‘Hope Farm’. The prize according to ‘Australian Author’ magazine is awarded to ‘the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way and empowers the status of women and girls in society’.
‘Hope Farm’ was also short listed for the Stella Prize 2016.