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23 February 2015

Colleen McCullough: The Ladies of Missalonghi

A short farewell to Colleen
This short novel by Colleen McCullough was published as an e-book few days ago but I discovered that was first published in 1987. Nevertheless it was a delightful way to say a short goodbye to Colleen, who passed away on 29 January 2015, for the enjoyment that I got from many of her books.

Just before WWI the town of Byron in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney was dominated by the male line of the Hurlingford family and had been so for many generations. Wealth only passed to the male line and with most females in the family living on their own existing in dreary poverty. Missalonghi (Missy) Wright is single, over thirty and lives with her widowed mother and crippled aunt. Her life is boring and meaningless, the only joy being her love of books, especially romantic novels, and her dream of being able to afford to dress in bright colours instead of practical everyday brown.

One day a stranger, John Smith, comes to town and disturbs the Hurlingford males because he has bought a local valley that they didn't know was available (they would have owned it themselves if they had known). John Smith brings hope and change into Missy's life that has an unexpected and huge impact on the Hurlingford's of Byron.

This is a charming, amusing and short novel with an ending spiced with divine intervention that seemed appropriate for the last novel I read from such a superb author. Colleen McCullough was a feisty, independent-minded, internationally acclaimed author of many marvellous books (including the classic Thornbirds saga and her brilliantly researched Masters of Rome series). She will be sadly missed.

This e-book contains promotional first chapters of Colleen's last novel, BITTERSWEET about the four Latimer sisters which I read and enjoyed 16 months ago. In my review I said that the ending left scope for visiting the lives of the sisters later on in their lives. Sadly that is not to be.

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