BOOK: Waratah House
AUTHOR: Ann Whitehead
PUBLISHER: Penguin Aust
ELEVEN-year-old Marina immigrates to Australia and a new life with her parents, but disease breaks out on the ship and leaves her an orphan.
Now in the care of Sarah Smithson, who proves bitter and unrelenting, she is determined to overcome her sorrow and come to grips with her new life, wholly different to the one she left behind.
Author Ann Whitehead vividly re-creates the Sydney of the 1880s and the life and times at Waratah House where Marina is put to work.
A mansion in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, she finds a new family among the servants in this stately home and settles in happily. But there are dark undercurrents at work.
Fast forward to Marina's daughter Emily who discovers that the past has a way of repeating itself.
She in turn must fight for her chance at happiness.
Whitehead effectively evokes the colonial period and working-class era but while some of the characters are real enough, many are not fleshed out in enough detail.
For me, the plot unravelled with too many love and hate relationships, creating a tangled web of intrigue and complexity that was hard to follow.