January 04

Devotion by Hannah Kent

One of my new year resolutions is to read every word written by Hannah Kent. I’ll be a richer person for it and yes, I know, I know, I’m late to the party and there’s much catching up to do starting with Burial Rites which Ms A luckily nabbed first. I won’t be so slow out of the gate next time.

I adored Devotion so my simple message Readheads is you need this one in your life and on your forever bookshelf pronto. Perhaps you are clever clogs and have it already so please stand aside to make room for one more in the Hannah Kent fan club.

The story starts in 1836 in Prussia and follows the daring resettlement of a community of Old Lutherans to South Australia to flee religious persecution. It’s told by Hanne Nussbaum, a young woman most at home in the forest. She has a finely tuned antenna to the woods and all its living things and rebels against the traditional norms of womanhood and the rigid, devout rules of her congregation. She communes with nature, speaks its language, feels it and hears its whispers much like we hear a radio.

So, no surprise, Hanne is a loner …. until she meets Thea the daughter of a family who arrive just before the great pilgrimage to Australia.

Their friendship develops quickly and together with their families they gather all their belongings and make way to the shore to board a disease ridden, over-crowded ship bound for the new colony of South Australia. The trip is long and brutal and many don’t survive the ocean swells and illness. The journey takes months and months and I felt nauseous myself imagining how utterly foul it would be on board (a cruiser I am not)

Despite the harshness and despair, Hanne is lulled by the song of the whales and her growing love for Thea ……until it’s taken from her. Hanne and Thea are separated and find themselves in the new barren land apart, yet somehow still bound together….Hanne residing with nature, Thea remaining locked in convention. This sounds twee I know but there is a twist and when I say a twist, I mean a doozy TWIST! It’s beautiful and very, very weird but when you are reading it, you are all for it.

This book is filled with devotion of all kinds so it’s a clever title from a brilliantly clever author and as someone utterly awash with devotion, I’m off to the bookshop to swap all my Christmas money on every Hannah Kent novel available and am locking my front door till I devour the lot. Toodle-ooh.

And that is just my two cents worth.