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World War II is over and Hiroshima lies in a heap of poisoned rubble when young Quaker Wesley Cunningham returns home to Almond Tree. He served as a stretcher-bearer; he’s seen his fair share of horror. Now he intends to build beautiful houses and to marry, having fallen in love with his neighbour’s daughter Beth Hardy.
Beth has other plans. An ardent socialist, she is convinced the Party and Stalin’s Soviet Union hold the answers to all the world’s evils. She doesn’t believe in marriage, and in any case her devotion is to the cause. Beth’s ideals will exact a ruinously high price. But Wes will not stop loving her. This is the story of their journey through the catastrophic mid-twentieth century—from summer in Almond Tree to Moscow’s bitter winter and back again—to find a way of being together.
‘Robert Hillman entwines, with risk and skill, different and seemingly incompatible stories…He adds heft to the distinguished fiction of rural Australia.’
‘It is not often that a novel is both a great read and a sobering chronicle about the painful possibilities of human behaviour…Robert Hillman’s The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted is such a one.’
‘Hillman’s ability to conjure up the rhythms and texture of rural life is a source of joy…This is a novel about the importance of freedom as well as the redemptive qualities of love – and how facing up to the past can be the key to both freedom and love.’