Published by Bastei Entertainment on August 8th 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Stars in the Southern Sky is an historical saga set in the "most isolated town" of Australia. From its passionate people, to its mystic wildlife, the outback becomes its own character in Elizabeth Haran's novel about learning how to thrive in the face of adversity.
London 1954: When Estella is abandoned by her lawyer husband, James, her life of luxury crumbles. Not only had he left his job and frittered away their savings, James was cheating on Estella - with her cousin Davinia. But the family secrets didn't end there.
Heartbroken, Estella turns her back on England. Her distant uncle Charlie beckons her to Australia, where she accepts a new position - village veterinarian. She had studied veterinary medicine, but she'd never had a real job. As Estella sets off for the outback, she carries secrets of her own: she is pregnant with James' baby.
Day one in the bush brings the young Londoner to tears. Kangaroo Crossing, population thirteen, was not what Estella had expected. Sweltering. Dusty. Fly-infested. From the gruff propeller plane pilot to the perpetually drunken town doctor, the locals eye the newcomer with suspicion.
After a series of harrowing events, Estella strives to prove herself capable of the job. Just as the villagers of Kangaroo Crossing start to accept Estella - and a romance starts to blossom - her past catches up with her. She's been hiding things from them.
Back in England, James has gotten wind of the baby. His new wife, Davinia, can't have children - but her lavish inheritance depends on an heir. James will stop at nothing to get what is his. Can Estella save her baby - and herself - from the wild Australian bush? Will she ever learn to love again?
Although it was dark outside, she went for a walk. The dingo trailed after her, and Stargazer watched from his stable. When she’d gone a hundred yards into the scrub behind the house, she burst into tears, the release of emotion like a stop-valve opening.
“You all right missus?”
Startled, Estella turned. She hadn’t heard Mai approach, but she was standing behind her. “Yes, Mai. Just a little sad.” She blew her nose and took a deep breath. In the back of her mind she reminded herself that she wasn’t supposed to get upset, but despite her emotional breakdown, she actually felt better than she had since leaving England. She wanted to talk, but didn’t know how to explain her complex feelings to Mai. Mai gazed at her, her dark eyes shining in the darkness as she asked, “You lonely for your man, missus?”
Estella was startled again. “I miss the life we once had together, Mai, but it’s gone. Forever.” She hadn’t realised that letting go was going to be so hard, even after all James had put her through.
Mai nodded. “He bad fella, missus?”
Estella wasn’t sure whether it was a question or statement, but lately she’d come to see that Mai possessed an inner wisdom. “He was no good, Mai. He left me for another woman.”
“You cut off his boom-be-ra,” Mai said.
Estella gasped, her eyes widening, but she couldn’t help laughing. The Aboriginal woman smiled in the darkness, giving Estella a glimpse of white teeth. “You and your baby will be all right, missus. You strong lady.”
Estella was astonished. “How did you know about the baby? Did Kylie tell you?”
“No, missus.” She smiled again and then turned back to her camp, where Binnie was sleeping. She was ever mindful not to forget the dingo.
For several moments Estella stood alone, watching Mai get swallowed up by the darkness. It didn’t make sense, but she believed her when she said that Kylie hadn’t told her about the baby. She trusted Kylie and Mai amazed her more each day. She thought about their first meeting, when Estella had thought that Mai was slightly crazy. She couldn’t have been more wrong, and was beginning to see what her father saw in the Aboriginal folk. They had wisdom that Europeans could never hope to understand. They were one with the land. In a desert where a white man saw nothing but waste, they saw beauty and an abundance of food and water.
If you had to title your own life what would it be and why?
The Best Is Yet to Come. That has two meanings for me.
One, my life is pretty good now, but I hope it gets better and better. And secondly, I’ve been writing for twenty years and it still excites me, so I hope my books just keep getting better.
What are 5 things you must have with you when you write?
My notebook, because I write notes in bed every night for the following day.
Silence. I don’t mind hearing the wild birds outside, but no music or talking.
Google. I couldn’t write without Google because I’m always checking details.
My comfortable ergonomic chair.
What research did you have to do for this book?
This book is set right in the middle of Australia, which is the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles from anything. You virtually have to fly in by light plane, or drive up an often impassable dirt track to get there. At the time I was writing, the roads were shut due to rain and flooding. So I didn’t physically go there. But I did plenty of research online and have visited very similar towns. Only a handful of locals live in Birdsville, which I called Kangaroo Crossing for my German readers. It’s this isolation that I found so fascinating.
Can you tell us what is next for you?
I’m currently working on a novel set in 1906, in the mining town of Kalgoolie in Western Australia. It’s basically about adoption. Kalgoolie in those days was like the wild west, with men well outnumbering women, plenty of pubs and some famous bordellos. I’m a third into the book and so far it’s been so much fun to write.
~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
Stars in the Southern Sky is a stand alone book by Elizabeth Haran.
Estella was happily married, lived in a grand house in London, and had a very well off husband who was a lawyer. When she found out she was pregnant she couldn’t wait to tell him the news. But before she had the chance, her world fell apart when she catches him kissing her cousin Davinia! When she approaches him he tells her that they are broke, they’ll have to sell all their assets, oh and he wants a divorce because yes he’s been having an affair and is leaving her for her cousin!!! She can’t tell him about her pregnancy because he also added that he’s glad they had no children because he doesn’t want to be a father. Besides that, if he did decide to stay with her, she’d know that it was only because of the baby. So at a loss for what to do, where to go, and desperate for comfort, she packs her bags and turns up on her Aunt Flo’s doorstep.
Her mother and father divorced when she was small because they moved to one of Australia’s most isolated towns, and her mother couldn’t cope with life there. She packed up herself and Estella and returned to England. Over the years she didn’t let on to Estella that she knew where her father was, or that he desperately wanted contact with her. Her Aunt Florence, knew though and when everything fell to pieces for Estella, Flo finally broke her promise and told Estella about her dad being a vet in Kangaroo Crossing, but that sadly he had recently died, and the townsfolk are looking for a new vet. It’s something Estella is trained to do, and the job comes with lodging, plus she will be too far away for her ex to ever know that she is pregnant. It sounds perfect, so with the help of her aunt and her Uncle Charlie in Kangaroo Crossing, arrangements are made and she starts her epic journey to Australia.
From there the story is phenomenal. Estella being a woman, a young woman, and never having actually practised being a vet has to win over very stubborn Australian farmers. She has to learn to live with the absolute essentials in life, her home doesn’t even have running water. The weather is ridiculously hot, the flies don’t let up, and before she is even there for a day she ends up collapsing and in hospital from dehydration. Not a good start to her time there. So much is against her, but she is determined to win over the people. At first she just wants to earn money to earn her plane fare home, but as time goes on will that change. Can she get the people to trust her, can she ever acclimatise herself to her new surroundings, how can she bring up a baby in such an isolated place? Did she make the wrong move by going there?
Estella’s story had me gripped from the moment I read about her husband wanting a divorce. How she coped in Australia with all the problems that she had to overcome had me hanging on to every word. It isn’t just her story that is captivating though, it is the perfect description of the people there, the landscape, the wildlife, the way of life. It felt like if I closed my eyes I might open them again and be there with Estella. I loved her interaction with the aboriginals, I loved picturing the stars in the sky, the stunning animals, even the horrid dusty heat and living in drought conditions. Even though Estella struggled, I could easily picture myself leaving my home and taking up a life just like hers. Am I insane, maybe, or just maybe the author made me appreciate the beauty of an isolated spot in Australia despite the hardships one would have to endure.
The way the author describes the characters deserves mention too. There was so much difference between them all, even the station owners who all have the same needs, each have their own individual personality. Then there’s Estella’s uncle who is a real hoot, and god forbid when his pub runs out of beer. Doctor Dan and Murphy two men that are interested in Estella both have very big issues to deal with from their pasts, and then there is general store owner, a man whose trust in her is the first step towards her earning the trust of the other town people.
The book was perfect from beginning to end, it made me run the whole gamut of emotions, including tears. Not just tears at sad moments, or happy tears, but also huge tears for the absolute beauty of the way the story ends. I cannot fault this book at all, it’s perfection and I cannot recommend it enough.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced readers’ copy of this book.