The Secret World of Connie Starr Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
A stunning evocation of Australian life through the war to the 1950s, this novel is intimate and sweeping, immediate and dreamlike—a magical rendering of darkness and joy, and the beauty inherent in difference. For fans of Sarah Winman's Still Life, Trent Dalton's All Our Shimmering Skies and Rosalie Ham's The Dressmaker.
Connie Starr was always a difficult child. Her mother knew as soon as Connie entered the world that day in Ballarat in 1934 and opened her lungs to scream, there was more chaos in the world than before and it wouldn't leave until Connie did. From the safety of a branch high in her lemon tree where she speaks to angels, she sees the world for what it is—a swirling mass of beauty and darkness, of trauma and family, of love and war and truth and lies—lies that might just undo her and drive her to a desperate act.
This ambitious, complex and insightful novel intertwines numerous stories of lives from before World War II and beyond, recreating with intimacy and breadth a world that is now lost to us. This book is a brightly coloured patchwork quilt of everything from shoes to polio, lemon trees to rivers, death to life that melds into one beautiful, luminous work of art.
"The Secret World of Connie Starr will set the literary firmament ablaze. This brilliant, quintessentially Australian ode to difference, transcends time and place—it's an achingly lovely tale that shines long after the last page." Karen Brooks, author of The Good Wife of Bath
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|Listening Length||12 hours and 45 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com.au Release Date||06 July 2022|
|Best Sellers Rank|| 14,070 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
87 in World War II Historical Fiction
340 in Family Life Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
1,477 in Family Life Fiction (Books)
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The story follows the complexities of the lives of several families in the district who are more closely connected, mostly through their local Baptist church, and centres around the Minister, Joseph Starr and his family.
Joseph’s first wife died giving birth to their third child, leaving him feeling hopelessly alone and struggling to raise their three children.
It wasn’t very long before he found himself smitten with a much younger woman, Flora…who he was sure would make the perfect wife and mother to his children…and as luck would have it, his feelings were reciprocated.
When Flora went into labour at home with their first child, Joseph was there to help with the delivery…having already fathered three healthy children he was confident that they could manage without a doctor.
A healthy little girl was delivered and Joseph tended to mother and child with gentle loving care.
Being her first child, Flora was still in a bit of shock at the whole business and struggled to bond with the child…who seemed to her to be feeling the same way…as the child would not take to her breast for feeding, instead just lying there staring at her mother.
They named the girl Connie and tried to all settle into a normal family life together, though there seemed to be an undercurrent of resentment from the older children towards their new mother and baby Connie.
The story follows this family and their day to day interactions closely with other families and neighbours and members of Joseph’s loyal congregation, so that we watch them all as they grow and share their life experiences, big and little, as they all grow between 1939-1952.
The timeframe has the reader taking a deeper look into the dynamics of ordinary Australian family lives during the time when the war broke out and the people struggled with the myriad consequences.
As men were called to service…with many younger men volunteering prematurely…
food and resources were rationed and mothers and daughters did whatever they had to do to make ends meet without a breadwinner or, in many cases no income.
Life went on all the same and did not spare the rod for those at home or at war, as hardship continued to play its role in this town.
Like other readers I was reminded of stories like The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham, Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, and Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones to name just a few.
To me the story had a feel of Australian Noir about it…shades of light and dark.
There is some fine writing here and some nice turns of phrase, and once involved, I found it to be a very compelling read.
The Secret World of Connie Starr is historical saga set in Australia during 1939 to 1952 and it covers a wide range of subjects and social issues and what life was like in Australia during the depression and the Second World War.
Connie spends most of her time sitting on a branch of the family’s lemon tree in the backyard in Ballarat, talking to the angels and day dreaming. Connie’s quirky, different and she struggles to make friends at school. When the Second World War breaks out, Connie’s doesn’t know what to make of all the talk about fighting, men signing up, rationing and everyone tightening their belts!
Her father’s a baptist minister, the family live frugally, they have always helped people in need and Connie wears her sisters hand me downs. The Japanese bomb Darwin, the war is on home soil, it effects relationships with in the Starr family and Connie is easily mislead.
I did enjoy the story, I thought it would focus more on Connie and most of the narrative seemed to be based around other characters in the book. The information about the war and the polio treatment in Australia was interesting, and how the war effected soldiers, their parents and some even abandoned their wives, and four stars from me.
When Connie is five, World War II breaks out and the world changes completely. From her eyrie, high in the lemon tree Joseph planted just before she was born, Connie observes and interprets what she sees. The boundary between observation and imagination is not always clear. There are other families in this novel as well, each with their own stories, hardships and (several) heartbreaks. Men and youths travel off to war, rationing is introduced, and Connie is often annoyed when Flora invites those who are less well-off to share the Starr home and meals. And over the following twenty years, we will travel with some of these characters as their lives unfurl (and, in some cases unravel).
Ms Neal has written an intricate novel, with multiple themes and well-realised complex characters. Many of the characters struggle through World War II and its aftermath, some emerge triumphant, others survive while some of the opportunists meet their comeuppance.
And Connie? She has a journey of her own to undertake.
I really enjoyed this novel, but I must confess that Connie was not my favourite character.