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The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart - Holly Ringland This is a lovely book. Ringland's writing about young Alice's experience of domestic violence was compelling and disturbing. However, surprisingly, this didn't stop the writing from being beautiful. It also had the ring of truth about it. I think this is why I felt myself becoming completely immersed in the story; it was one that I recognised. The weaving of the language of Australian natives into the narrative probably helped to soften it and render it less brutal in some respects. In other respects, the contrast of the beauty of the language of Australian natives sharpened the brutality of the domestic violence depicted.

The story cleverly illustrated the impact that witnessing domestic violence, being present where it occurs, has on the children in the family. It also shows how experiencing or witness such violence primes children to repeat this cycle in their adult life. I say prime because it is not inevitable, but it does certainly make navigating intimate relationships problematic.

Ringland's story also shows how strong and assertive women are just as likely to be victims of domestic violence. It is part of a belief that they have control over what abusers do, steer someone else's choices. In some ways it is as if the idea that they have no control over it is even scarier; with control comes predictability and with predictability comes the possibility of avoiding it. Ringland shows this very clearly while Alice is living in Central Australia.

The end made me realise that even though I had just read Alice's story, her memory of it was incomplete, until the end. So the story came full circle in that respect. I felt that after she regained her memory of her past and her family history (from those who knew her family as well as her own rediscovered recollections), she had no need for the language of flowers, she could speak in her own language. I think this is why she passed this legacy on. Once she recalled and understood she could move in the direction she needed to, and this was Alice's growth.

A truly beautiful book which will not only leave you thinking about the subject matter, but also hungry for details about the meaning of beautiful Australian wildflowers.