The Winds of Heaven, by Judith Clarke

Oh, how different from home all this was! How different from thirty-three Willow Street! You could even smell the difference: a mixture of sun and dust, wild honey and the smoky tang from the old kerosene fridge on the back verandah. And you could smell feelings, too – Clementine was sure of it: you could smell anger and hatred and disappointment and jagged little fears. The anger smelled like iron and the disappointment smelled like mud.

When Clementine meets her cousin Fan, she thinks Fan is strong and beautiful. Fan doesn’t care what other people think, and she is sure her life will be different from her mother’s. She calls Clementine her sister. But they live far apart and as the girls grow towards adulthood their lives become increasingly different. Whilst Clementine finishes school and heads for university, Fan leaves school as soon as she can and looks for love, in a search that seems destined for failure. Can their bond, and Fan’s determination to be different, be enough to make that difference in Fan’s life?

The Winds of Heaven is a beautiful, moving novel set primarily in 1950s Australia. The lives of the girls are in many ways contrasted – one from a stable, city family, the other from a broken, rural, home – and, as they grow, the contrast become more marked as Clementine enters the world of university, working towards the future her parents have long dreamt of her having, whilst Fan struggles with an unhappy teen marriage and motherhood, unable to escape a life which echoes her mother’s. Yet the two share a special bond, and also a need to find their true identity.

This is a moving story, with Fan’s life moving in a seemingly inevitable chain of events foreshadowed by the older Clementine looking back on events of her childhood. Clarke is an insightful writer, with the characters’ complex lives and personalities making them come alive to the reader.

The Winds of Heaven

The Winds of Heaven, by Judith Clarke
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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