For the love of a brumby

Review: Brumby’s Run by Jenny Scoullar

Confessions first. Jenny Scoullar is a mate of mine. We’re in the same writing group together – the inimitable LLG’s (Little Lonsdale Group). Jenny’s first book, Wasp Season, a contemporary environmental thriller, was published in 2008 and I’m ashamed to admit I’m yet to read it. From the small excerpts I have read, I notice that Jenny writes about the natural world, animals in particular, with an intense familiarity that’s quite unique in the literary field.

When I came to read her second novel, the recently released ‘Brumby’s Run’, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Knowing that it is a rural romance, I wondered if Jenny would still manage to capture her clear passion for the world of animals within the context of a traditional love story. I can honestly say that she not only managed it, she trumped it with gusto.

If you’ve ever loved horses, longed to work with them or own one, you will love this book. If you are a lover of wilderness and the freedom that comes with wandering uninhabited places, you will love this book. If you enjoy a tender romance and the tangle of family tensions and secrets, you will love this book.

Brumby’s Run pays homage to the complexity of the Australian rural landscape and the people who live within it. Sam and Charlie are twin sisters, separated at birth and by upbringings that couldn’t be more different. The story opens when Sam, who has always believed she is the birth child of her parents, discovers she is adopted and her ill twin sister needs her help to get well. Sam escapes the suffocating expectations of her mother and moves to Charlie’s birthplace, Brumby’s Run. While the focus of the novel is on the budding romance between Sam and nearby neighbour, Drew, Jenny doesn’t balk from confronting the issues that face our wild Australian brumbies and the preservation of the sensitive high country environment. Jenny’s awareness of the lives of these magnificent horses and the impact of high country grazing on native flora and fauna is palpable through the eyes of her characters. It’s a hard topic, particularly in this genre, and she tackles it with grace, empathy and beautiful prose. While this genre isn’t really my thing, I can’t help but admire what Jenny has achieved with it, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll tackle in her next book, Firewater, due out with Penguin in 2013.

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