The Saddler Boys follows city girl Natalie, fresh in her teaching career and biting at the bit to really start educating some young whipper snappers. In what is her last chance to really have a chance to be and do what she wants, Natalie takes a job in the tiny town of Lake Biddy, in rural Western Australia. Of course, she gets a great deal more than she bargained for; being welcomed by a supportive community, making genuine friends, having her own class with adoring students, oh, and a gorgeous farmer and his son relying on her. Natalie has a life back in the city though; a wealthy family, a boyfriend and a future already completely mapped out for her. Just when she thinks she couldn't be more torn between choosing which life is the one she is supposed to live; the threat of Lake Biddy primary school closing is revealed. Now does she even have a choice? Or will she fight for her little school and community, and most importantly, for her dream?
I genuinely loved The Saddler Boys so much! There were just so many things that I could relate to (for an extensive list, see below). I grew up in the country; on a crop farm specifically, so when Natalie was experiencing all of the wondrous joys of rural living for the first time, I was smiling at the memories. My primary school had twenty-seven students; from K-6. Yepp. There was the little room and the big room, and two teachers. I know the ins-and-outs, the pros-and-cons, the known-and-unkown when it comes to small schools. Not just because I did my entire education in them, but also because I am primary school teacher (I finish my degree in T-minus 4 months!) majoring in Rural and Aboriginal Education. I understand exactly how incredible it is to be educated in such a close-knit environment, where you literally grow up with the same five people and your teachers are your friends. Where cars are used for excursions, not buses, and the joy of having your Mum volunteering in the canteen once a week is known. There is also the pitfalls though; such as a high teacher turn-over ratio, minimum resources and funding, and the ever present fear of school closure if numbers drop too much. All of these things are explored in Palmer's masterpiece, and more! There is romance, drama, comedic relief, and the some fair dinkum Aussie slang. It is an inspiring and heart warming read which I know I will easily pick up again, and again, and again.
Genre: Adult Fiction
Acquired from: Penguin Books Australia
Thoughts and things I loved (as told from my little brown book)
• Ringing the bell! Best job ever!
• They're reading Harry Potter! Is this my life?! She is doing a HP classroom theme! I have already planned mine!!!
• Turbo! Does everyone have a dog named this?! We did!
• Arriving the morning of school for the first time? Heck no!
• Mcleod's Daughters mention - cheering!
• "An hour later Billy signalled by banging on the roof [of the ute]. 'Stop Dad'" -pg 55 - ME!!
• "Her parents had spent thousands on top schools. But really, was she any better off than the teachers who'd gone through Government schools?" -pg 80
• "He smelt like grease and fuel, and for some reason she liked that" - pg 208 - My poison is diesel, welding and grime remover soap.
• "Some kind of darth vader helmet" -pg 216 - BAHAHAHAHA!
• "possum" - that's my nickname!
Q&A with author Fiona Palmer:
1. There were so many things I could relate to throughout your book. What were the biggest reliability points within The Saddler Boys for you? For me it’s keeping the sense of small town community and keeping it as close to real life as I can, but also moving the story forward.
2. A very real issue for rural schools is explored in your novel. In what ways have small school closures touched your life? The very Primary School I went to closed down in 1998, a few years after I left but it does still affect me with my own children. The Primary School where I worked as a teacher’s assistant also closed down in 2005. Both were great little schools supported by the community but when towns shrink, farmers sell up there just aren’t enough kids about for the government to be happy about keeping it open. I’ve seen how it can change a town and I wanted to touch on a few of these issues in the book.
3. The structures Kim creates sound breath-taking! Please tell me you know someone in real life who does them, so that I can get my hands on one of these beauties? I know so many people, men and women, who are talented like this. So many farmers know how to weld and when you throw in some creativity, voila you have gorgeous creations. Most of the great things I’ve seen made are by friends who are too busy farming to start a business selling their creations but there are many others you can find through Facebook. I’ve seen the most beautiful metal horse, which is now on display down south in WA.
4. I found so many incredible quotes within The Saddler Boys pages which I love. Do you have any favourites? No favourites that come to mind. I do love Doris, she’s a character. And I loved writing the Bogan Bingo scene. I can just picture Drew covered in so many orange dots he’s turned into a bogan-looking oompalompa.
5. Natalie and Drew's story is one I know I will continue to think of. Is there any chance that it may continue in a sequel sometime in the future? Funny you should ask. I am writing a follow-on book, but it will follow Kim’s story line. So we will still see Drew, Billy and Natalie and many other favourites in the next book. Plus a few new faces to town. I’ve just started writing the first chapter today.
*I received this book in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are entirely my own*