Patrick Allington reviews 'Hope Farm' by Peggy Frew

'I try to imagine going back': so begins a story about a woman remembering her childhood even when it seems she would just as soon forget it. Hope Farm is Melbourne writer and musician Peggy Frew's second novel. Her terrific d├ębut, House of Sticks (2011), was about, among other things, contemporary parenthood and the rhythm of conventional and unconventional lives. Hope Farm explores similar themes, but it pushes further and deeper. Although it is a realist tale, at times Frew's focus on the interpreting and recasting of memories leads to odd-shaped realities; although it is set in the 1970s and 1980s, the novel's focus on counter-culture gives it an unfixed, ethereal quality.

When Karen becomes pregnant aged seventeen, her parents shunt her from Toowoomba West to Brisbane to conceal her from gossipy neighbours. Having resisted heavy pressure to give up the baby for adoption, and now unwelcome at home, she moves to an ashram. There she names the baby Silver and renames herself Ishtar, and begins life again.

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