I wish to thank Jimena Gorraez-Connolly of Gallic Books/Aardvark Bureau for inviting me to take part on this Blog Tour for SALT CREEK by Lucy Treloar
Winner of the Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction (2016)
Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction (2016)
Winner of the ABIA Matt Richell Prize for Best New Writer (2016)
Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award (2016)
Winner of a Nita B. Kibble prize, the Dobbie Award (2016)
Shortlisted the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction (2016)
Longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award (2017)
Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar is published 5th September 2017
by Aardvark Bureau,
price £12.99 in hardback.
Some things collapse slow, and cannot always be rebuilt, and even if a thing can be remade it will never be as it was.
Salt Creek, 1855, lies at the far reaches of the remote, beautiful and inhospitable coastal region, the Coorong, in the new province of South Australia. The area, just opened to graziers willing to chance their luck, becomes home to Stanton Finch and his large family, including fifteen-year-old Hester Finch.
Once wealthy political activists, the Finch family has fallen on hard times. Cut adrift from the polite society they were raised to be part of, Hester and her siblings make connections where they can: with the few travellers that pass along the nearby stock route – among them a young artist, Charles – and the Ngarrindjeri people they have dispossessed. Over the years that pass, an Aboriginal boy, Tully, at first a friend, becomes part of the family.
Stanton’s attempts to tame the harsh landscape bring ruin to the Ngarrindjeri people’s homes and livelihoods, and unleash a chain of events that will tear the family asunder. As Hester witnesses the destruction of the Ngarrindjeri’s subtle culture and the ideals that her family once held so close, she begins to wonder what civilization is. Was it for this life and this world that she was educated?
Q&A WITH LUCY TRELOAR, AUTHOR OF SALT CREEK
Describe your book in one sentence
Salt Creek is about Hester Finch (fifteen at the novel’s beginning in 1855) and her idealistic family who move to remote and untried country in rural South Australia in a bid to restore their fortunes, and there discover the limits of love, civilisation and the ideals that they hold so dear.
Why did you write this book?
The Coorong, where Salt Creek is set, has always had an almost mythical quality for my family. Several times a year, when I was a child, my family would make the pilgrimage from Melbourne to the family beach house in South Australia five hundred miles away, each time passing the Coorong’s inland margins – a landscape of rolling saltbush and shimmering sky. My mother would tell almost fantastical stories of one of our ancestors and his large family who moved to these wilds in an attempt to restore the family fortunes.
Those intriguing fragments that had survived from the past were the foundation stones of Salt Creek. But the real catalyst for me was a research trip I went on to this region, kayaking up the lagoon and across to the windswept peninsula overlooking the Southern Ocean to the site of the old family homestead. After that the book demanded to be written. I was desperate to explore that desolate world and terrified that someone else would have the idea first. But part of my motivation was also that I could feel the fragility of the family stories and wanted to record them in some way so they wouldn’t be lost forever.
Where do you find inspiration?
Places often inspire me. It doesn’t have to be a landscape, though it often is, but it does need to have a rich atmosphere that I respond to strongly and that I want to explore and inhabit with people. Objects can be important too: a small white stone, sea glass and old flints all made their way into Salt Creek from a bowl of these things I kept on my desk while writing. Holding and feeling them brought the world I was creating closer. As for characters and getting to know them, I need to have a sort of soundtrack of them speaking in my head. For instance, Hester Finch, the narrator of Salt Creek, began with a letter written by a great (x5) aunt who, like Hester, travelled to the Coorong in the 1850s; that voice and Hester as a character developed from there.
Have you always written?
I have always gravitated towards writing: secret poetry when I was a child, and journalism and a few children’s books and short stories since then, and I’m always writing in my head, constructing sentences and thinking of ways to describe the things I see, feel and think. Committing to writing something as large as a novel was a major leap for me, and now that I’m starting on a new book I feel stunned all over again at the enormity of the task. What keeps me going back is that getting a sentence right, or lighting upon the exact word to convey a meaning gives me a level of satisfaction – part emotion and part intellect – that I just don’t get anywhere else.
Which writers do you admire?
So many writers… The work of great authors is daunting, but inspiring too. I read and reread and try to learn from them: Marilynne Robinson, Hilary Mantel, Cormac McCarthy, Elizabeth Strout, Ali Smith, Herman Melville, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Gardam and, for sheer enjoyment, Georgette Heyer.
What are you doing when you’re not writing?
I don’t like to overfill my days, or to plan my life too much. The writing always proceeds better if things are very calm around me. I write in the morning, edit for a couple of Southeast Asian translation companies in the afternoon, or work on short non-fiction pieces, and potter around the garden filling birdbaths and idly gardening when I need a break. When I’m really engaged in writing fiction I think about it pretty much all the time. Everything seems to circle back to it. I enjoy that so much. I do love to read and reread. And there’s family and a lovely group of writing friends who I like to spend time with.
The super power you wish you had
Hard to go past flight… Is that a superpower? I often look at hovering birds, at their curious and intent gazes in flight, their heads turning and taking in the world below. I would love to be able to do that. I suppose it’s about inhabiting another way of seeing the world, which is what always interests me in writing.
Describe your writing routine
My days vary a lot. If I’m writing – which is most mornings when I’m on a deadline – I start in bed at around 6.00 a.m., pot of tea at my side, handwriting whatever scene interests me, and go into my writing studio at 9.00 and work on the computer, using the handwritten material as my jumping-off point. I don’t let myself leave until I’ve written at least a thousand words. The afternoon is taken up with my other work, which I do at home in my Internet friendly office. My dogs snooze in their bed to one side and let me know when it’s time for a walk.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve always got a heap of books on my bedside table (twenty-one right now – I just counted), several of which I’ll be reading, each for different reasons. Open at the moment: Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer (I’ve read and enjoyed it a couple of times, but this time I’m finding it very polemical), Moby Dick (I’m writing a short piece on why it’s one of my favourite books), Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals (an old comfort read), non-fiction research reading for my next novel, Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton (rereading for a writers’ book group I’m part of).
Name the book you’ve re-read the most
I’m a great re-reader, but I tend to go through rereading phases rather than having a single book that I’ve always reread. I reread my way through Marilynne Robinson’s novels every couple of years and always discover new things in them. Moby Dick is one of my touchstone books, which I often dip into without reading all the way through, and I reread quite a bit of Cormac McCarthy (the Border Trilogy and Blood Meridian especially). Jane Gardam’s The Hollow Land is a very great favourite. It effortlessly floats free of convention and age classifications. When I read Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton early this year I knew it was a book I’d keep rereading. How did she write something so quiet, so economical, so devastating?
HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW
Absolutely loved this book, beautifully written it captures the raw rugged coastal area of Australia that was the homeland of the Aboriginal Ngarrindjeri Tribe before the invasion of outsiders, where they lived happily with nature and flourished. This is Salt Creek in the Coorong.
Stanton Finch was a business man who took gambles with get rich quick schemes, he wouldn’t allow his business to grow at a steady solid pace, he made rash decisions, that resulted in failure time and time again. With mounting debts he took another through ‘rose coloured spectacle’ and moved his large family away from everything they knew to Salt Creek to form yet another hair brained dream. This one would be costly for so many people and devastating for the wildlife that had been there through natures choice for millions and years.
The Finchs are not the first contact for some of the Aborigines and Tully a young Aboriginal boy becomes interpreter between his people and the family. He is an outstanding character in the book and soon became accepted as part of the family, taking lessons with the younger children. In turn he educated them about his culture. It really is truly fascinating to read both accounts. This is a harsh and unforgiving land the claims lives as if in payment for being there and because of ignorance. This story is told through the eyes of one of Stanton’s daughters, Hester at 15 the oldest girl. She is forced to grow up really quickly shouldering huge responsibilities within the family.
Lucy Treloar has mixed both fact the fiction together seamlessly to retell this stunning and beautifully captivating story. It was just impossible to stop reading once I began and I simply hated when it ended. It is breath taking and heart breaking in every chapter, no flowery niceties, just the we are right and you are all wrong attitudes of the pompous invaders of the time. Wading in unwittingly destroying what has lived in harmony together since time began. I can’t recommend this book enough, it really will be etched into my memories for years to come.
I wish to thank Gallic Books/Aardvak Bureau for supplying me with an ARC of this book which I reviewed honestly.
HERE IS A LITTLE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lucy Treloar was born in Malaysia and educated in Australia, England and Sweden, and worked for several years in Cambodia. Awards for her writing include the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Pacific Region). Salt Creek is her first novel. Lucy lives in Melbourne with her husband, four children and two whippets.