The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland
The challenge with reviewing The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland is to convey in only a few hundred words the stunning achievement of this debut author. Ringland has written a heartbreaking yet hopeful work about trauma, healing and self-discovery worthy of sitting alongside novels such as The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb.
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart charts approximately twenty years in the life of Alice from nine years old and takes us through three distinct Australian landscapes: the seaside, the farm and the central Australian desert. Throughout this odyssey, tragedies occur and secrets are revealed as Alice is exposed to the power and influence of family, friendship and love and the way to communicate it all through the language of native Australian flowers.
On every level, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is impressive. In telling the story of Alice, we are also told the stories of many women from Alice’s past and present and the portrayal of these vivid, complex characters is one of the highlights of the book (there are even three dogs that are distinct characters in themselves). The settings are stunning and important; water and fire are recurring motifs symbolic of cleansing, renewal and destruction. Then there is the language; the prose is descriptive and poetic resulting in evocative imagery rich in colour and shade and conveying a strong sense of place. I lost count of the number of times I gasped or nodded my head at a phrase or image as I read this book. Finally, there is the story itself which explores many relevant and topical themes such as domestic violence, the cycle of abuse and land ownership. This is a courageous and remarkable book that I’m sure many readers will connect with. I loved it.