Top critical review
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Not exactly a masterpiece BUT...
on 27 January 2012
This is the first of four books (currently) about the same families living in the rural Bay of Plenty in newly colonized New Zealand. Parkinson is already working on the fifth, set during the first world war. I bought it as I've just returned from NZ, and the book was free to download. I've since gone on to purchase the other three books for about £2 each and am enjoying the series, although have not been blown away. While definite value for money I wouldn't have spent much more on them.
Parkinson has a lovely way of writing, especially conversations between characters. They are realistic and not rushed. I'd say that 85% of the books are made up of 'talking', which is easy to read, but hardly constitutes a great writer.
The main characters are well-developed, not always likeable and varying enough to maintain interest. But crikey there are some cliches. You've got the 'strong' female protagonist, the irritating but likeable friend, the slightly dim but dependable love interest, the 'nasty' love interest, and the evil step-mother (yes really). As you move into the later books the list increases. You can also see all of the plot 'twists' coming a mile off. In the fourth book I predicted a later scene almost word for word.
Although the writing itself doesn't feel rushed, the pace is far too quick, with entire years passing by in about 10 pages. The couples have so many children its difficult to keep track of who belongs to who, and as time rushes by so quickly you get no clear image of the characters. The prose, of which there is not a lot, can be rather boring sometimes and I've found myself skim-reading some parts.
BUT there is something about these books that keeps me reading, often well into the night. Despite the obvious flaws, they are intensely readable. The emotion is what draws you in, with some moments being extremely well-handled and intensely moving. Some of the descriptions of what Amy goes through are surprisingly graphic in terms of violence and sheer unpleasantness. Some parts left me feeling physically sick.
There is some sexual content in all the books, although its never added just for the sake of it, and is sometimes racy but never explicit.
Overall an enjoyable series, but with a good editor it could have been great. If anything it's nice to learn a bit about the social history of NZ, even though the majority of places in the books are fictional. Parkinson's done her research, but needs to work on her writing style if she's to win a large fan-base. It is her first novel however, so kudos for that, I know I couldn't do any better!