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Wattle Creek by Fiona McCallum

Wattle Creek

by Fiona McCallum

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This is a story set in small country town in Australia.- a quick and enjoyable light holiday read that does give some insight into what it would be like to live in a small country town (where everybody knows everybody) and work on the land. It also deals with the issue of depression amongst men in farming areas. ( )
  kiwifortyniner | Dec 4, 2012 |
Wattle Creek is a contemporary Australian novel that explores the sensitive subject of depression amongst men in rural areas. Damien is a third generation farmer doing it tough. The sheep are stupid, something always needs fixing and he is single and lonely. After finding himself cradling a rifle and contemplating suicide he reaches out for help. Jacqueline is establishing her psychologist practice in Wattle Creek after fleeing an awkward situation in the city arising from her work in prisons. She is looking forward to working in Wattle Creek, determined to help the regions residents, however practicing in a small rural town poses challenges she had never considered.

Wattle Creek wasn’t quite what I was expecting, though it has an element of romance and minor suspense, it’s focus is more on Damien’s emotional journey. McCallum has created a wonderful character in Damien, he is very much a ‘typical’ rural Aussie bloke in that he doesn’t talk much and he is reluctant to share his feelings. His journey through depression is realistically painful. The long hours and hard work coupled with the isolation and financial concerns has seen Damien grow increasingly disillusioned during his twenties but he has continued to work the land out of respect and a sense of duty to his late father. He is unable to turn to his mother for support, though she part owns the farm, she lives with her second husband and has no time for Damien’s messy emotions. It is only in crisis that he reaches out to the local GP who refers him to Jacqueline.
Unfortunately, Jacqueline is the character I liked least in Wattle Creek. A psychologist, Jacqueline is fresh from the city and has to adjust to living in a small town. Initially I found her background interesting and sympathised with her when she made an error in judgment that leads to disapproval by the clinic doctor but as the novel unfolded I found she lacked the self awareness and insight I would have expected from someone of her profession. She is young admittedly, and therefore somewhat inexperienced, and though I don’t doubt her motivation is to provide care for the community I thought her internal thoughts tended to be judgmental. I also found I was uncomfortable with the relationship that develops between Jacqueline and Damien, which seems to me to be a breach of professional ethics. In a small town it is understandable that the line between the personal and professional can blur a little, as the incident in the pub shows, but having once gotten involved with a patient, no matter how innocent the interaction, repeating the error seems disingenuous.
I was fond of Ethel, she is quite a character, an active octogenarian, willing to extend friendship and support to both Jacqueline and Damien. I also thought McCallum captured the essence of a small rural community well. I enjoyed witnessing the interactions unique to rural life – the CWA meeting, for example, and the way in which the community pulls together when fire threatens.

For me, the strength of Wattle Creek lies in its authentic depiction of a young rural man struggling with depression and I appreciate McCallum highlighting the issue. While I wasn’t enamoured with Jacqueline and the romantic element of the novel, I did generally enjoy Wattle Creek and read it in just one day. I plan to eventually read McCallum’s previous titles, Paycheque and Nowhere Else. ( )
  shelleyraec | Apr 25, 2012 |
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Damien McAllister is a man on the brink. Spending long, hard days on a farm he has no affection for, and his nights ignoring the criticisms of his mother, Damien can no longer remember what he.s living for. But in a small town like Wattle Creek, there are few people to turn to, and Damien learned long ago to keep his problems to himself.… (more)

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