Burning Fields

Written by Alli Sinclair
Review by Julia C. Fischer

After helping with the war effort in Brisbane, in 1948 Rosie Stanton returns to her family’s struggling sugar cane farm in rural Queensland, Australia. Rosie’s family is broken in the aftermath of World War II as they deal with the loss of two sons. Escaping her own secret, Rosie is desperate to help the farm succeed and bring her family back together, but she is constantly rebuked by her father, who has an old-fashioned view of women’s roles. In the midst of this, Rosie falls for Tomas Conti, a newly arrived Italian immigrant working on his family’s neighboring farm. But Tomas has his own secrets and heartache from World War II that impede his budding relationship with Rosie. In addition, Rosie’s father harbors an intense bias toward Italians, creating more problems in her romance with Tomas. Through it all, Rosie does not let anyone stand in her way as she challenges her father in his prejudiced views and fights to understand Tomas’s complicated past, all against the backdrop of the burning sugar cane fields of Queensland, from whose ashes life springs again.

Fans of Barbara Hannay will love Sinclair’s book, with its mix of history, romance, and family secrets. With its dual time periods of post-war Queensland and World War II Italy, the reader is drawn into the unfolding family drama, including alcoholism, PTSD, racism, and feminism. The book is especially brought to life by the memorable character of Rosie Stanton, an independent woman who represents the new modern age. While the book is predictable at times, with some melodramatic dialogue, Burning Fields is ultimately an entertaining, easy read, especially for readers who like historical novels set in Australia.