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 Matilda's Last Waltz by Tamara McKinley

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PostSubject: Matilda's Last Waltz by Tamara McKinley   Mon Dec 28, 2009 3:47 pm

This novel - I believe it is her first - was the first I ever read by Tamara McKinley. I picked it up at the flea market, and really didn't think it would be more than a quick read. I was mistaken: it turned out to be a very enjoyable novel, with interesting plot turns.

Tamara McKinley takes us back through time, first to Matilda Thomas in the 1930s. Matilda lives in the Australian outback with her father on the sheep station Churinga - the connecting element between her story and that of Jenny, who inherits Churinga forty years later.

Matilda is only thirteen when her mother dies and she has to keep the farm running and fend off the advances of her father. It is only when he dies that she gets a chance at life. She takes Churinga back to old prosperity by dedicating her entire life to the farm and neglecting her own life entirely: no friendships except with her employees, no family. When she finally meets a young man and marries him, the secret of her life is unveiled, and she dies from grief.

Forty years later, Jenny finds Matilda's diaries. Having grown up in the city, the diaries help her understand life on Churinga. But she also feels a connection between her and Matilda that is slowly being uncovered in the course of the novel - along with the dark secret that Matilda records in her dying moments.

The novel has several weak points, to be sure:
- The connection between Jenny and Matilda is very artificial. It borders on a miracle that Jenny should find the diaries and find out about Matilda and her own connection to Churinga.
- The romance between Jenny and Brett is absolutely predictable. We haven't even met him when we realize that they're inevitably going to be an item - and the silly way in which the writer attempts to show them as constantly quarrelling thinly veils her purpose. Besides, the novel wouldn't lose anything without a character as shallow and boring as Brett Wilson.
- This is perhaps generally true: The male characters are not too convincing. The female characters, most notably Matilda and Jenny's friend (whose name escapes me just now) are intricate and portrayed with all their flaws.

Overall, Matilda's Last Waltz is a beautiful novel with wonderful descriptions of landscapes and great female characters. The plot is entertaining and never boring, in fact, it turned out to be difficult to put it down once I had started. However, there are a few flaws, which must result in four stars rather than five.

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