Stella Prize Longlist Book of the Day, Book 5: Peggy Frew’s Hope Farm
Each weekday between now and the announcement of the 2016 Stella Prize shortlist on March 10, we’ll be turning the Stella spotlight on a different longlisted author and their book. Today is day five, and our featured book is…
Hope Farm by Peggy Frew (Scribe)
What the Stella judges said:
Hope Farm concerns thirteen-year-old Silver, who has spent her life being moved from ashram to ashram and commune to commune by her mother Ishtar. In 1985 the latest move – at the urging of her mother’s new lover – is to Hope Farm, a run-down, weed-strewn property in rural Victoria, where the commune’s adults stubbornly cling to the faded promise of their ideals.
Peggy Frew displays an acute understanding of the powerlessness of a child: Silver is at the mercy of adults who are oblivious to the depth of her emotions and strength of her intellect. She also portrays the sometimes pathetic, sometimes funny, sometimes harmful actions of the book’s adults, without allowing them to become caricatures or villains. In spite of its darkness, Hope Farm is written in prose infused with love and wonder for the world.
It is the winter of 1985. Hope Farm sticks out of the ragged landscape like a decaying tooth, its weatherboard walls sagging into the undergrowth. Silver’s mother, Ishtar, has fallen for the charismatic Miller, and the three of them have moved to the rural hippie commune to make a new start.
At Hope, Silver finds unexpected friendship and, at last, a place to call home. But it is also here that, at just thirteen, she is thrust into an unrelenting adult world — and the walls begin to come tumbling down, with deadly consequences.
Hope Farm is the masterful second novel from award-winning author Peggy Frew, and is a devastatingly beautiful story about the broken bonds of childhood, and the enduring cost of holding back the truth.
About the author:
Peggy Frew’s debut novel, House of Sticks, won the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Her story ‘Home Visit’ won The Age short story competition in 2008. She has been published in New Australian Stories 2, Kill Your Darlings, and Meanjin. Peggy is also a member of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Melbourne band Art of Fighting.
What the critics said:
‘One of the final strengths of Frew’s writing is her instinct not to veer into cliche. As with growing up, there are many bright instances in Hope Farm, but where one might hope, despite it all, for relief, Frew is beautifully and necessarily steadfast.’ Jessica Au, The Sydney Morning Herald
‘Hope Farm is a nuanced, painful novel. In exploring what happens to the love between a parent and child when the rules of that relationship dissolve, and where the freedoms overwhelm, Frew exposes the raw tenderness of loving but not being loved in return. For that, forgiveness may simply never be enough.’ Meredith Jaffe, The Guardian
‘Hope Farm is a gorgeously written gem of a novel. I have not come across another Australian novel yet this year that I have enjoyed more.’ Jason Austin, Readings