Book: Salt Creek
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

Lucy Treloar was born in Malaysia and educated in England, Sweden and Melbourne. A graduate of the University of Melbourne and RMIT, Lucy is a writer and editor, and has plied her trades both in Australia and in Cambodia, where she lived for a number of years. Her short fiction has appeared in Sleepers, Overland, Seizure and Best Australian Stories 2013, and her non-fiction in a range of print media including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Womankind, G Magazine, The West, Visit Cambodia, RAM and Gardening Australia. Her first novel, Salt Creek, was published by Picador in 2015. Lucy lives in inner Melbourne with her husband, four children and two whippets.

Synopsis of Salt Creek:

Salt Creek, 1855, lies at the far reaches of the remote, beautiful and inhospitable coastal region, the Coorong, in the new province of South Australia. The area, just opened to graziers willing to chance their luck, becomes home to Stanton Finch and his large family, including fifteen-year-old Hester Finch.

Salt CreekOnce wealthy political activists, the Finch family has fallen on hard times. Cut adrift from the polite society they were raised to be part of, Hester and her siblings make connections where they can: with the few travellers that pass along the nearby stock route – among them a young artist, Charles – and the Ngarrindjeri people they have dispossessed. Over the years that pass, an Aboriginal boy, Tully, at first a friend, becomes part of the family.

Stanton’s attempts to tame the harsh landscape bring ruin to the Ngarrindjeri people’s homes and livelihoods, and unleash a chain of events that will tear the family asunder. As Hester witnesses the destruction of the Ngarrindjeri’s subtle culture and the ideals that her family once held so close, she begins to wonder what civilization is. Was it for this life and this world that she was educated?

Judges’ Comments:

As if Emily Bronte had once lived in far-flung South Australia, this accomplished novel is a time-traveller’s delight. Looking back from 1870s England, narrator Hester Finch recounts the seven eventful years after her family took up a pastoral ‘selection’ in 1855 along the wild windswept Coorong. Though Hester’s Quaker father always harboured high hopes and ideals, as her story unfolds, the reality of their lives is very different.

Thwarted love is embedded at the heart of this novel. Hester’s sister Addie falls for the family’s adopted Ngarrindjeri boy Tully who moves between two worlds, reading Charles Darwin in an attempt to understand the Finches. Hester herself survives family disgrace to build another life for herself and her son.

Salt Creek’s portrait of frontier life – seen through the observant eyes of fifteen-year-old Hester – unsettles assumptions about European ‘settlement’ and its devastating effects on Aboriginal culture. It also graphically charts the unequal nineteenth-century power relations between men and women, and the lasting consequences for both Hester and Addie.

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