We’ve only just got our hands on Nikki Gemmell’s latest book and we are beyond thrilled after waiting nine years since her last adult fiction novel.
From her bestselling first novel, Shiver, which we remember staying up all night reading (and crying) back in the 90s through, to her international smash, The Bride Stripped Bare, Gemmell is one of Australia’s most honest, audacious and provocative writers. For us, favourites along the way have included Love Song, With My Body, Cleave and the genre bending The Book of Rapture. Oh, and she’s written two gloriously imaginative children’s book series too (which we’ve also adored).
She’s very famous in France and we often wonder if Australian readers are finally catching up with her poetic, but pared style. Their literary magazine Lire included Gemmell in a list of the 50 most important writers in the world – those it believes will have a significant influence on the literature of the 21st century. Not bad for a girl from the Gong who has also enjoyed a successful career as an ABC journalist and is a current columnist for The Australian (where she’s continually bombarded for her empathetic views in the ‘letters to the editor’ section).
The Ripping Tree is an historical thriller, a tale of survival in colonial Australia. It’s about a young woman finding a way to escape the claustrophobic world that initially appears to be rescuing her. ‘Get out – before they save you’ is the shout line.
Gemmell says she likes to think of this book as a ‘depth charge of truth’, it’s a love story wrapped within the glossy package of a thriller. It’s about a woman embedded in a new family that may not be saving her after all; it’s about power and injustice and female strength, a woman finding her voice.
The book is an intense, sharp tale of survival written in Gemmell’s signature lyrical prose, but with audacious overtones. It’s a thrilling examination of Australia’s dark colonial history and makes for unsettling and riveting reading.
‘An illustrious family. A beautiful home. A shipwrecked young woman left on its doorstep. Don’t think they’re going to save her ...’
Early 1800s. Thomasina Trelora is on her way to the colonies. Her fate: to be married to a clergyman she’s never met. As the Australian coastline comes into view a storm wrecks the ship and leaves her lying on the rocks, near death. She’s saved by an Aboriginal man who carries her to the door of a grand European house, Willowbrae.
Suddenly free to be whoever she wants to be and thrilled by a whole new life as it opens up to her, she is drawn deeper into the intriguing life of this grand estate and soon discovers that things aren't quite as they seem. She stumbles across a horrifying secret at the heart of this world of colonial decorum – and realises she may have exchanged one kind of prison for another.
The Ripping Tree is a typical Gemmell page turner and soul buoy-er, her love of words, the shape and feel of them is what sets her apart as a storyteller. She uses unexpected couplings and a layering of ideas that transport. A visual and an emotional writer, Gemmell balances these two layers to delicious perfection.
‘That rescue shone. And in the thick of an alien midnight I was lifted into a coracle of softness whose powdery sides arced protectively over me.’
– NIKKI GEMMELL
Conceptualised by Gemmell on her return to Australia after 15 years living in the UK, The Ripping Tree has taken her nine years (on and off) to craft. It is Gemmell’s love letter to Australia, encapsulating the wonder of seeing the country with fresh eyes while also addressing the ‘impossible to deny’ darkness of the Australian origin story.
The Ripping Tree by Nikki Gemmell
RRP: $32.99 | ISBN: 9781460751992 |
eBook and audiobook available