The Postmistress by Alison Stuart
1871. Adelaide Greaves and her young son have found sanctuary in the Australian town of Maiden’s Creek, where she works as a postmistress. The rough Victorian goldmining settlement is a hard place for a woman – especially as the other women in town don’t know what to make of her – but through force of will and sheer necessity, Adelaide carves out a role.
But her past is coming to find her, and the embittered and scarred Confederate soldier Caleb Hunt, in town in search of gold and not without a dark past of his own, might be the only one who can help. Can Adelaide trust him? Can she trust anyone?
When death and danger threaten – some from her past, some born of the Australian bush – she must swallow her pride and turn to Caleb to join her in the fight, a fight she is determined to win…
I thoroughly enjoyed The Postmistress, and felt quite familiar with the setting of this historical novel. The characters are strong and credible, and I kept thinking that it would make an excellent television series or movie.
It’s a great story of early colonial Australia, country Victoria to be precise, with a couple of asides regarding the way European settlers damaged the natural environment. The cast is interesting and there is diversity in their nationalities, as could be expected from a settler society, although (as was the historical case at the time this is set), the indigenous world had been destroyed. So there is a twenty-first century understanding behind the story.
I took a while to warm to Adelaide who is quite reserved and rather prickly in her job as postmistress, but I did come to like her very much and had to keep reading the story. The bulk of the book follows love interest, American Caleb Hunt. His tale is fascinating and he is a very likeable fellow.
I would have enjoyed reading more about Adelaide and Netty’s early years in Victoria, as they must have had a difficult start, and it would have helped me like Adelaide more a bit earlier. I may have been a little side-tracked by the title and cover into thinking that this was majorly Adelaide’s story.
The current relationship between the two women is unclear – Netty was Adelaide’s maid in England, but is her friend here. However, Netty seems to do all the household work, and acts like the housekeeper. I would have been very happy to read more about these characters as they fascinated me. I hope they reappear in the next Maiden’s Creek novel, which I am very much looking forward to. Australian author Alison Stuart is a dab hand at creating historical novels that engage and entertain, and I recommend you pick up any one of her books you see!
Excellent reading, especially for the long hot Australian summer.
*BEWARE SPOILERS BELOW!!!!*
I wanted them to stay in Maiden’s Creek! Caleb seems such a natural at doctoring that I’m really disappointed he’s going to give it away, and I liked Adelaide being independent as the Postmistress. Wait and see!