What is a book – to different people I’m sure they represent different things. There are textbooks, educational journals, fiction, non-fiction, biographies; the list is endless. Realistically it is merely a combination of words on a page, jumbled together to make sense out of this big wide world of ours – or to transport you to another one entirely, to create sense in an otherwise muddled reality or to recount the past to educate those in the future. Books are inanimate objects, so how pray-tell do they take me from being euphorically happy to the depths of sadness in the space of a few pages. Like music where the perfect combination of notes equals a beautiful composition; when words are placed into the perfect order, symmetry occurs that has the ability to transport the reader to a place where you feel the complexity of despair, the freedom of flight or the powerlessness of imprisonment.
Never before has a book done this so well than Peter Yeldham’s, A Bitter Harvest, a thought provoking, emotional roller-coaster of love, despair, triumph and new life. Set in the harbour side city of Sydney at the time of federation to the end of the Gallipoli campaign, Yeldham’s natural affinity for story-telling weaves the reader through a complex set of events, places and times, culminating in a book with a genuine sincerity towards its characters and their surrounding world.
The lives of William Patterson, a career politician with a shady past, his beloved and beautiful daughter Elizabeth and a penniless German, Stefan, collided in a storm of events that left the family all but torn apart. Now, separated by not only distance but opinions and loyalties the family try to rebuild before the strangle of the first world war wraps its hands around the beautiful Barossa Valley and hysteria sweeps the nation.
Yeldham beautifully highlights the effects of the Gallipoli campaign on the German migrant population settled in Australia prior to the war. Following Stefan and Elizabeth’s love, the reader feels the hatred toward the racist police, the love for their growing family and the injustices that were occurring throughout the nation at the time.
Not only did this book send me on a roller-coaster emotional journey, it opened my eyes to the perspective of the down trodden, the power trips of the rich and influential and the despair of those who can’t speak up for themselves.
A book becomes more than just a combination of glued pages with words on each, it becomes more than just a simple book when, after you’ve closed the final page you see the world with a slightly altered lens – one coloured with a touch of the imagination, wit and empathy the author has presented you with.
If you are to read one book this year – make it this one.
Buy your copy here.