Blue Hour
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Blue Hour

Sarah Schmidt, Geraldine Hakewill

1936: At nineteen, Kitty was ready to leave behind the stifling control of her parents and all those constantly telling her how to live her life. Work at the Wintonvale Repatriation Hospital was her escape and a chance to be someone else.


Then she met soldier George Turner - and she heard her mother’s voice in her ear, warning of danger, of being that girl. Kitty told herself if she ever had her own daughter she’d never control her. She’d make sure her voice never left a mark behind.

1973: Growing up, Eleanor’s home was strained by sorrow and the echoes of war that silenced her parents. And always her mother, Kitty’s, bitterness, twisting and poisoning everything she touched. She thought she knew what made her parents this way … but Eleanor would never know all her mother’s secrets.

The demands of marriage, motherhood and looking after her daughter while her husband, Leon, is in Vietnam lay claim to Eleanor’s days. Nature, embracing curiosity and not being like her mother are Eleanor’s solace. But they are not enough when Leon’s darkness overwhelms. Both he and her mother leave their mark, and use her child for their own ends. Afraid, unsure and alone, Eleanor will be driven to erase her mother’s voice in her head. But the question remains: can she bear the burden of her own secrets?

Vivid, deeply affecting and confronting, Blue Hour explores the beauty and violence in the world.

Powerfully magnifying the fractures between a mother and a daughter, it reveals the brutal cost when we allow grief and trauma to reach down generations.

Review

Blue Hour adds another achievement to Sarah Schmidt’s repertoire after her debut novel, See What I Have Done, was received with accolades. As in her first novel, Schmidt’s skill for making readers ponder raw and uncomfortable realities is profound.

Kitty and Eleanor are mother and daughter. We are introduced to Kitty as a young woman, a nurse in the Australian town of Wintonvale during the Second World War. We see her fall in love too quickly, and pursue an unattainable ‘normal’ life with a deeply traumatised returned soldier, George. We see her struggle with the realities of motherhood and marriage, realities which are often omitted from the common narrative of parenting. She feels trapped by her husband’s instability, and is resentful of her daughter, who is a symbol of this unwelcome situation. I’m sure readers will feel as protective of Eleanor as I did, while maintaining a sympathy for Kitty, who never asked for this version of life.

Despite her toxic upbringing, Eleanor is strong-minded and passionate. She recounts her memories from the driver’s seat of the car as she and her own daughter travel to Eleanor’s beloved blue mountain, a symbol of safety in her life. As we follow Eleanor’s memories from her adventurous childhood to her student years in Melbourne, we learn that in her now-adult life, Eleanor’s own husband is called up to war in Vietnam. She faces becoming a parent alone.

These parallel stories of motherhood against the poisonous backdrop of conflict are nothing short of harrowing. Lightened by touching moments interspersed throughout, they articulate the complexities of emotionally and physically abusive relationships. This is a mother- daughter story which fills the page with all those parts of womanhood the world does not want you to know about – a hard-to- swallow novel that I urge you to read.


Grace Gooda is a bookseller at Readings Malvern.

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