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Wild Awake
Hilary T. Smith
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Bryan Peterson

The Mimosa Tree

The Mimosa Tree - Antonella Preto *heavy sigh*I wanted to like this book so much more than I actually did. I mean, look at that cover! I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I can’t lie, that gorgeous art and the blurb had me thinking this would definitely be a REY-BOOK.Unfortunately, this wasn’t quite for me. To start with the good: I loved the setting and the historical context of the novel. By choosing to set The Mimosa Tree during the final years of the Cold War, against a back drop of the anti-nuclear movement and the very palpable tensions of the international arms race, Preto frames Mira’s internal conflict with an interesting external parallel. When Mira’s very real fears and sense of impending disaster on a global scale are pre-empted by a tragedy much closer to home, the setting and political climate take on a symbolic significance.As for the not-so-good, here’s where I confess I’m a monster with a heart of stone: Mira’s family tribulations did nothing for me. I’m sorry. The cultural and generational dissonance between Mira and her family is interesting, particularly when it comes to her relationship with her father. Yet despite the truly sad things that happen to Mira’s family, I had no emotional investment in these characters. The novel feels bloated, weighed down and slow with scenes that establish how the family functions internally: the relationships between Mira’s mother and aunts, her parents, their world view, the fact that Mira is attending university. This is all important, particularly in terms of understanding Mira as a character, but it’s all too long and dense. The opening chapters meander through interminable scene-setting, recounting the minutiae of conversations and the drinking of copious cups of coffee.The tedium is broken somewhat by Mira’s commencement of university and gradual establishing of relationships with Felicia and Harm. It’s here also that we see Mira’s connection to alternative youth culture of the 80s, particular in the music she listens to (Goth, New Romantic, alternative rock etc) and the social movements around her (anti-nuclear, resistance to US foreign policy etc). Combined with and in response to her family circumstances, Mira engages in risk-taking behaviour and drug use, becoming drawn to the apparent freedom of Harm’s lifestyle, romanticising his choices. (Personally, I completely fail to see Harm’s appeal.)But as much as this is a story about family, death and struggle to define identity – which are all strong themes – I feel they were explored with varying degrees of success. Mira’s safety map, the motif of the mimosa tree, and the atmosphere of catastrophe are effective, but the pacing is weak. It’s a patchy novel: powerful at moments, but unengaging in others. Unfortunately, I think I like the idea of this story much more than the story itself. * * * * * *Not a review (yet), but if you want to check out the New Romantic/Goth/alternative 1980s playlist hop on over here or here. * * * * *Fremantle's covers are so pretty..