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With Winter Comes Darkness by Robbi Neal

Have you ever read a book by Aussie author (and talented artist), Robbi Neal before? If you have, then you know that her latest book, the gorgeously titled With Winter Comes Darkness, is going to be an absolute cracker. If you haven’t, then pick up this one now (and then go and read The Secret World of Connie Starr) stat!

With Winter Comes Darkness is set in Ballarat in the mid 1970s, back then, a small country town in central, Victoria. The book opens with a tragic accident that turns the lives of those effected – lawyer Liam, and his two young children – as well as his wife, Alice, upside down and propels them into grief, accusation, and the consequences of trying to deal with these.

On the same night the accident occurs, a shocking murder is committed on a remote farm. The main suspect, Ellery, a beloved and quiet maths teacher, has no recollection of what happened despite the fact all evidence points to him being the perpetrator. A gentle man with a reputation for being kind, compassionate and gentle, could he really have committed such a heinous crime upon another member of the community who, to all intents and purposes, was held in such high regard?

The reader then follows the twin narratives of what happens to both Alice and her family, and Ellery. Told with achingly beautiful prose and such humanity, I couldn’t put this book down. My soul filled as I followed the trajectory of the characters’ lives as they try to come to terms with such catastrophic events. Everything, the characters, the township, the reactions and actions of other characters, major and minor, were so utterly relatable, you felt like part of the community. I cried, I laughed, I gasped, I felt rage and sorrow – a veritable gamut of emotions. Such is the power of Robbi’s story-telling, you are drawn in from the first page to the last, and then find yourself thinking about the tale you’ve just been a part of (you don’t simply read it) long after the last word.

Truly, if you want to read a captivating book that doesn’t just tell an Australian story, but a distinctly human one – sublimely, compassionately, rivetingly – treat yourself (and others I’ve bought so many as gifts already) to this gorgeous book.

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