It is 1914 and Bairnsdale, Australia, is filled with the news of a war in far off places. Ida Hallam, a young shop assistant, has fallen in love with Ralph Mitton a land surveyor, but Ralph is caught up in the romance and adventure of fighting for his country. Ida envies his freedom, but when he returns wounded and troubled she begins to understand something of the nature of what he has experienced. Years later Ida’s sons go off to fight in the Second World War.
Ida never experiences a climatic triumph, nor an epiphany. Yet her abiding strength and gentle courage see her find wisdom. By incorporating world events into her life’s tablecloth, she domesticates them, revealing ordinary people to be participants and creators of history, not only recipients of it. Perhaps this is a radical and democratic thought, or else proof that the meek and seekers of peace are blessed.
Steve Gome, Australian Book Review June 2008.
Its greatest strength lies in its protagonist, whose personal journey shows a tender, fragile and hopeful side to humanity. Less a history of the great war and more the history of a woman affected by the great war, this is a gentle, simple and straightforward book.
Reg Domingo, Good Reading March 2008.
Despite its subject matter, this is a gentle love story. McConnell forgoes all the grisly details of wholesale massacre, concentrating instead on the small happenings of a small country town.
Hence, there’s talk of the making of lace, of horses being shod, and of dancing in woolshed balls.
Thuy On, The Age 4 February 2008.
McConnell’s strong imagery of the Gippsland countryside is beguiling and the addition of the character of Ida’s son Edward is a breath of fresh air.
Katie Horner, Bookseller and Publisher October 2007.