A Bitter Harvest

Inspiration in Familiar Places

There’s a strange kind of fear around the idea of meeting ones heroes. I think it’s probably because we spend so much time building these people up in our minds that the reality never truly meets with the expectation.  I’ve never really had much time for ‘heroes’. Certainly, there are people whose work I’ve enjoyed, people who I’ve often dreamt of becoming. But my fascination with them never lasts long. When there’s so much out there to be read, watched, listened to and enjoyed, who can waste that precise time focusing on the creator. I’d much rather bask in the glory of their creations. There are occasions where I’ll read a novel or a short story and thought to myself, ‘this is how I want to write’. There are some authors who perfectly capture everything you wish you could, setting a benchmark for your creation. Generally I see these people as more of an inspiration than a hero, I guess some would say that’s the same thing, but I feel that there’s a great divide in using someone’s work as a bench mark and idolizing someone for more than just their work.

I’ve known Peter Yeldham my entire life. I didn’t realise he was an author until I found a copy of Without Warning on my parents bookshelf when I was 13. I read through it quickly, devouring it as fast as I could. I absolutely loved it; to this day I still remember it vividly. I didn’t read another of Peter’s books until I started working at For Pity Sake Publishing. Above the Fold was a beautiful novel. The way it used the Northern Beaches (my home for the first 19 years of my life) as one of its base settings was incredible. I’ve never had the experience of reading a novel set in a place I know so well before, and it really just brought the story to life. However, it was A Bitter Harvest that really changed something for me. This book moved me so profoundly that I doubt I will ever fully recover. It is truly one of the most magnificent and touching books that I have ever read. It’s beautifully tragic, even thinking about it now is bringing a tear to my eye. A Bitter Harvest changed something for me. As I read this novel and fell in love with the characters and embedded myself in the time period, I thought of Peter, this man that I have known my whole life. I thought about how he had been able to weave these unique characters from thin air. Now, I know this sounds like something that every writer does, but I can’t stress how much of a feat A Bitter Harvest is. The book is 578 pages long, and spans over three generations of the Patterson/Muller family. The characters are deep and challenging, you finish the book feeling like you’ve made lifelong friends, their lives affecting you in a way you can’t comprehend.

And here’s where we come back to heroes. For me, it’s almost impossible to really idolize someone that I’ve never met. There are too many variables, questions about their lives that I desperately want answered. And there’s the fear, the fear that one day I will meet said hero and they won’t live up to my expectations. That’s the beautiful thing about Peter Yeldham, a man that I’ve known my whole life, someone that I’ve spoken to and formed a real life connection with. Reading Peter’s work I think, ‘this is it, this is how I want to write’, Peter’s life and his writing is something that I aspire to, something that I will spend the rest of my literary career working towards.

 

Originally posted on The Musings of a Blackie 

A Bitter Harvest- Review

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.