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Book Review of Philco’s Drovers Park

At the start of Philco’s Drovers Park, we are introduced to gentleman Henry Collette, as he explores the ruins of a Victorian workhouse. Unbeknownst to him, his pottering around the ruin inadvertently entwines his life with that of another: Annie, a young girl living seventy years earlier. In 1858, nine-year-old Annie has a brutal life in a workhouse; her mother is gone, her father nonexistent, and her only friends are two young orphans. Though Miss Roberts is kind to her and the other girls, living, working and sleeping in a confined place is no real upbringing for such a young girl. The only keepsake she has is a necklace, given to her by her mother. But, her life is utterly changed when a Mr. Watson visits her and gives her the opportunity of a lifetime. 

Back in 1922, Collette, after hearing the cries of a child, finds a necklace in the ruins of the workhouse, as he tries to escape a storm. Not knowing the necklace’s history, he takes it home with him. Researching the past, he begins to piece together a puzzle spanning decades, continents and involving half of the townspeople. Collette and Annie’s lives — though dramatically different — both centre around Annie’s necklace, the story of forbidden love, and a secret child. Philco is a great storyteller: his passion and sharp-witted comedy can be seen quite clearly in Drover’s Park

From Collette’s wife, Estelle, to Mr. Watson, small sparks of humour keep the reader interested. His dialogue, on the whole, is suitable for the time periods, but the lack of colloquial language and accents (apart from some small attempts at Australian) often makes the dialogue boring. His reliance on dialogue is interesting, but the lack of description leads to some scenes feeling unfinished and unedited. However, his strong characterisation creates memorable characters such as Mr. Bainbridge and Mrs. Watson. Also, the factual reimagining of workhouse life is harrowing and really brings Annie’s situation home to the reader. Overall, the story has both strong and weak points, but works as a whole; with some editing and a decluttering of dialogue, this novel will really shine.

Review by Kieren Taylor

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