Book: Hope Farm
Publisher: Scribe Publications

Peggy Frew’s debut novel, House of Sticks, won the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Her story ‘Home Visit’ won The Age short story competition. She has been published in New Australian Stories 2, Kill Your Darlings, The Big Issue, and Meanjin. Peggy is also a member of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Melbourne band Art of Fighting. Her latest novel is Hope Farm.

Synopsis of Hope Farm:

They were inescapable, the tensions of the adult world — the fraught and febrile aura that surrounded Ishtar and those in her orbit, that whined and creaked like a wire pulled too tight.’

Hope FarmIt is the winter of 1985. Hope Farm sticks out of the ragged landscape like a decaying tooth, its weatherboard walls sagging into the undergrowth. Silver’s mother, Ishtar, has fallen for the charismatic Miller, and the three of them have moved to the rural hippie commune to make a new start.

At Hope, Silver finds unexpected friendship and, at last, a place to call home. But it is also here that, at just thirteen, she is thrust into an unrelenting adult world — and the walls begin to come tumbling down, with deadly consequences.

Hope Farm is the masterful second novel from award-winning author Peggy Frew, and is a devastatingly beautiful story about the broken bonds of childhood, and the enduring cost of holding back the truth.

Judges’ Comments:

Silver is thirteen when her mother, Ishtar, falls under the spell of the blazing larger-than-life Miller and follows him to a communal farm in Gippsland. Ishtar has led an alternative life since she was forced out of home, pregnant, ignorant and seventeen. Silver has learnt not attach to herself to anyone or anything, as her experience of being constantly uprooted as Ishtar drifts from relationship to relationship has taught her wariness. She is at an age where adults still control her life, but where she is starting to question their motives.

It is at Hope Farm that Silver makes her first true friend, Ian, who has secrets and resources of his own. It is also where she meets Dan, who is young, confident and quietly efficient, and his dreams and goals awaken an echoing need in Silver for escape. As Ishtar becomes aware of the disappointing reality of Miller’s nature, so too does Silver realise her mother is not the woman she wants her to be, and the scene is set for larger betrayals and life-changing tragedy.

This finely crafted novel presents two distinct voices, and as Silver recounts the events at the commune, the reader is also aware of the unfolding story of Ishtar as told through her semi-literate diary notes. Hope Farm is a quietly powerful and haunting novel, full of the aching intensity of the outcast, rendered in pitch-perfect tone and heartbreakingly believable.

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