Set in Western Australia between 1945 and 1962, Finding Jasper is the story of three generations of women waiting for the return of the man in their lives.
Son, twin brother, new husband and father, Jasper is at times the only gel that holds these very different women together. That and the fact that they are trying to get by the best way they know how while a war goes on far from the isolation of their small farm.
With deft brushstrokes, Leonhardt paints the harsh beauty of the Australian bush that through the eyes on a newly arrived English bride is far from the romance of home.
Here in Australia, everything looked drab. There was no life or colour in the bush. It even smelt different… As far as she was concerned, the sight of the Australian bush did no more than bring tears to her eyes.
It is the research that has gone into Lynne Leonardt’s debut novel that offers wonderful depth and a valuable insight into how life may have been for the women of Western Australia at the time. It moves between the country and the city of Perth, while also touching on life in London during the blitz and that of ex-pats in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
If you are not from the west or even Australia, it is still a wonderful portrayal of the effects that war has on people – relationships, families and the community. People cope in different ways and stress brings out extremes – the best and the worst in people.
Not all of Leonhart’s characters are good, or even likeable, but given what they have been through, or what they are going through during the course of the novel, makes the reader question how one would cope in a similar situation.
By the title I expected a lot more “finding” to go on in terms of actual tracking down of Jasper. Suffice to say, without spoiling the ending, the path to happiness does not necessarily lie in the palm of others.