River Run by Nicole Alexander
Nicole Alexander will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only is she a phenomenal author, but she was the first woman to feature as a #WCW of mine on my old site, Don’t Ask Leah. She didn’t know me at all, but from just one simple email requesting an interview with her, she gave me her mobile number and told me to call her anytime. When I finally worked up the courage to dial her number, she was generous with her time, her stories and her entire being. She divulged details about her writing process, her family, her life in rural Australia and about herself to me that left me feeling inspired, fulfilled and completely in awe of her.
River Run had been sitting on my bookshelf for a while before I picked it up recently, I hate to admit. The thing that everyone needs to know about Nicole Alexander’s work is that even if the blurb or the subject matter doesn’t appeal to you strongly or seem as though it is going to be up your alley – trust me, it is. I have never been a huge fan of historical fiction and generally speaking, when I see that a book’s story takes place any time before the present day, it tends to deter me from wanting to read it.
“It is January 1951, and after a year away Eleanor Webber has returned home to River Run, her family’s sprawling sheep property in western New South Wales. Fleeing a failed love affair back in Sydney, she hopes for some time and space to heal.
But with shearing of over 25,000 sheep about to commence, and the infamous and moneyed Margaret Winslow and her husband Keith staying in the main house as her mother’s guests, that dream is quickly dashed.
More worryingly, her half-brother Robbie is increasingly running wild, playing tricks on his governess, antagonising the jackeroos and obsessing about a communist invasion. Though only eleven, Robbie has appointed himself guardian of the property and, in his treehouse by the river, he readies for an imminent attack. Armed with a gun.
Then, with a storm looming and tensions rising in the shearing shed, a mysterious stranger appears on the horizon.
And in one disastrous moment young Robbie entangles Eleanor in a situation that will have serious repercussions for every member of the Webber family.”
When I picked this book up from the bookstore, I bought it without reading the blurb because I trust her writing and her talent for story-telling so inherently. Even when I started reading it, I didn’t turn to the back of the book to see what I was in for – instead, I read it page by page and let the story unfold. I went into the book blind and it did not disappoint.
First of all, the fact that River Run takes place over one week for the duration of the book means that the pace is slow and allows for a lot more detail to be expressed. I am a fast reader and usually churn through books at a rapid pace, but I found that because the timeline was only a week it actually changed my reading habits. It was almost as if I was reading it in real time. Not only that, but I found myself making the conscious decision to not read too much in one sitting. That isn’t how you read Nicole Alexander’s work, not because it isn’t gripping or page-turning or anything like that, but because her love of the Australian landscape and the respect she has for its description and retelling deserves the reader’s time and attention.
Our protagonist, Eleanor, is my kind of woman. For her time she is rebellious – she has relocated to Sydney and spends her time with a very progressive (sexually speaking) crowd at a time where that was still frowned upon for a woman. She also writes and illustrates comic books and graphic novels – a woman after mown heart. She retreats to her family home in the country after having her heart broken and her writing stolen by said heartbreaker. Already for me, that amount of detail was enough for me to care about what happened to her deeply.
Though I am completely oblivious when it comes to sheep shearing and the running of a farm, it did not mean that those elements of the story were lost on me. Quite the opposite, in fact. Nicole Alexander writes with such devotion to her background and the rural lifestyle that you cannot help but become completely consumed by it as if it were your own life and experiences. Simply from reading this work of fiction, I was granted access into the reality of the processes that take place on a sheep farm. I would never seek out such information as it isn’t something I necessarily want to learn about, but through reading this novel I learned so much and became rather fixated on how everything runs in the country. In my opinion, that is the mark of a brilliant writer: someone who invites you into their world so subtly that you don’t realise it, furthermore, how much you belong there.
The pace of the book unexpectedly quickened when the climax of the plot was revealed and it was only then that I started completely devouring the pages – any spare moment that I had, I spent in the world of River Run. It was a perfectly timed turn of events and enhanced the reading experience for me, definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and enjoyed reacquainting myself with Nicole once more.