Sweet Bitter Cane


Amelia is married by proxy to Italo, a sugar cane farmer in Australia. When Amelia leaves Italy for Australia, she wonders what Italo is going to be like. When she gets to Australia, rather than Italo being there to pick her up, Fergus is there instead. When Amelia meets Italo, he doesn’t exactly meet her expectations, but she marries him. As Amelia adjusts to her new life, Fergus is there to help her face unconquerable odds. When Amelia enters into a scandalous affair with Fergus, everything is affected, yet she manages to keep all this entirely secret. Then Amelia’s safe haven is disrupted by politics and war. Will she be able to keep her secrets hidden?

This stark, harsh novel of life on a sugar cane farm during World War II is written sensitively but realistically. This gritty story of hope, faith and loss is touchingly poignant! The story does skip around, and big gaps of time are never completely explained. The characters are written well, but due to the cultures of Italy and Australia, it is hard to connect with them. The female protagonist, Amelia, is quite erratic and changeable. She stays with Italo despite having strong feelings for Fergus, even with all that is happening. Consequently, some readers may not approve of everything Amelia does or how she treats other characters, including her family. The effects of Fascism and war are discussed generically and simply. Still, the book gives a nice account of one woman’s life and struggle for survival in difficult times.

Roslynn Ernst