Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 8, 2018

Debut Mondays: new fiction from Rachel Leary and Louise Allan

This is the first in what I hope will be a series where debut Australian authors have the opportunity to spruik their novel!

Rachel Leary, photo by Kirsty Argyle

First up are Tassie author Rachel Leary, featured in Meet an Aussie Author late last year – and Louise Allan from WA. Many of you will know Louise from her blog series Writers in the Attic.

Rachel’s first novel is Bridget Crack which I reviewed a little while ago.  The book is published by Allen & Unwin, ISBN: 9781760295479

Bridget Crack is a young working class women transported to Van Diemen’s Land.  Raised by an uncaring step-mother she is emotionally reserved, seemingly-tough and recalcitrant.  In England she married an irresponsible man, which ultimately led to her transportation to the other side of the world.  In Van Diemen’s Land she must now contend with the life of an indentured servant.  In trying to both survive and wrestle some control over her circumstances she flees from her neglectful, taciturn master’s service, only to become lost in the bush.  Here she falls in with bad company.  Matt Brady is a bushranger, a man on the run.  Alluring, but confusing and volatile she becomes increasingly trapped in his world.  Now, viewed as bushranger’s whore, how can she find her way out of the marginal, wild lands?

Captain Marshall, Bridget’s first master in the colony, is a soldier, a man from a merchant family married to a would-be aristocrat. He could possibly save Bridget, but does he have what it takes to be a hero? He, like Bridget, must come to terms with this strange new land, and who and what he is within it.  The British are here to civilise wilderness and its ‘savages’, to use this land as their God intended, and to redeem sinners and criminals.  Marshall is expected to embrace this cause, but why does he find himself increasingly uncomfortable?  Set at a time when tension between the aboriginals and the settlers is rising, Bridget Crack charts a women’s journey through wilderness and a her quest to survive the darkness of humanity.

You can buy the book from all good bookstores including Fishpond: Bridget Crack .

And then we have Louise Allan’s first novel, ‘The Sisters’ Song’,  out now with Allen and Unwin, ISBN 9781760296315. The manuscript has previously been shortlisted for the 2014 City of Fremantle—TAG Hungerford Award and awarded a Varuna Residential Fellowship.   Louise grew up in Tasmania but now lives in Perth, Western Australia. Her first career was as a doctor, but in 2010 she ceased practising medicine and took up writing. She has had several short stories, essays and articles published in literary anthologies and medical journals.   Apart from writing, Louise also enjoys music, photography, walking and nature.  You can find her at her website, on Facebook, at Twitter, and Instagram.


This is the blurb for The Sisters’ Song:

Set in rural Tasmania from the 1920s to the 1990s, The Sisters’ Song traces the lives of two very different sisters. One for whom giving and loving are her most natural qualities and the other who cannot forgive and forget.

As children, Ida loves looking after her younger sister, Nora, but when their beloved father dies in 1926, everything changes. The two girls move in with their grandmother who is particularly encouraging of Nora’s musical talent. Nora eventually follows her dream of a brilliant musical career, while Ida takes a job as a nanny and their lives become quite separate.

The two sisters are reunited as Nora’s life takes an unwelcome direction and she finds herself, embittered and resentful, isolated in the Tasmanian bush with a husband and children. Ida longs passionately for a family and when she marries Len, a reliable and good man, she hopes to soon become a mother. Over time, it becomes clear that this is never likely to happen. In Ida’s eyes, it seems that Nora possesses everything in life that could possibly matter yet she values none of it.

Over a span of seventy years, the strengths and flaws of motherhood are revealed through the mercurial relationship of these two very different sisters. ‘The Sisters’ Song’ speaks of dreams, children and family, all entwined with a musical thread that binds them together.

And here Louise shares the story of how she came to write her book:

My first book, The Sisters’ Song, is about two sisters, one of whom dearly wants a family, while the other dreams of being an opera singer. Needless to say, neither sister’s dreams are realised, and the story is about how each deals with their loss and grief.

There’s a quote at the beginning of my book: ‘There are some women not meant to have children, and there are others born to do nothing else.’

For millennia, motherhood and children were considered the ultimate goal of a woman’s life, and throughout history many intelligent and creative women were never given the opportunity to develop their potential. Today, we’re meant to consider ourselves lucky because we can have careers as well as motherhood, but even now a woman who chooses not to have children is considered odd.

I drew inspiration from my antecedents, creative and intelligent women whose talents weren’t encouraged or allowed to flourish, but who married young and had large families. My great-grandmother, for example, was married at 16, and by the time she was widowed at the age of 27, had six children. A few years later, she took to her bed where she made exquisitely beautiful handcrafts for the next 26 years. I used to think she was selfish, but now I see it was her way of surviving.

My grandmother had eight children, and, although the pill was available in her latter reproductive years, she wouldn’t use contraception because of her strict Catholicism. She complained with each pregnancy and mistreated her kids, and I wonder if having child after unwanted child really was the best way to serve God. She was intelligent and artistic, and I wonder how much of her mistreatment of her kids was due to frustration at not being able to use her intellect and creativity.

I pondered all of this as I wrote my story, as well as my own sometimes conflicting feelings between caring for my family and pursuing my own dreams and hopes.

You can buy Louise’s book from all good bookstores including Fishpond:  The Sisters’ Song

Debut authors of literary fiction who would like the opportunity to be featured in Debut Mondays, should read the ANZLitLovers review policy to get an idea of the scope, style and readership of this blog and get in touch if interested.



  1. A great initiative Lisa. And more evidence perhaps that Tasmania is boxing above its weight in producing writers.


  2. Great series Lisa – I have Bridget Crack out on loan from the library to read (after reading your recent review) and will be lookig for Louise’s book in the near future.


  3. Thank you so much for the write-up, Lisa, and I feel very privileged to be paired up with Rachel! I actually have Rachel’s book here ready to read soon! It would be lovely if we could meet one day.


  4. Louise, you will be pleased to hear that I found a copy of The Sisters’ Song at Top Titles in Brighton so I will be reading it soon:)


    • That’s great! Thank you for letting me know! (I really hope you like it!) x


  5. The authors and publishers must be delighted to have a platform like this to showcase their work


  6. Nice to see a start to your series Lisa. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fantastic Lisa! I will look forward to these posts (nothing better than hearing an author talk about their own books).


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