The Hope Flower, by Joy Dettman • Glam Adelaide

Finally, a book covering the intricacies of domestic violence perpetrated by a female.

CW: mention of domestic violence and filicide.

Finally, a book covering the intricacies of the lesser-acknowledged side of domestic violence and neglect: that which has been perpetrated by a female. In this story, it is the character’s biological mother.

Although author Joy Dettman’s latest novel is not advertised as a sequel to Henry’s Daughter (written in 2004) it is from the same family. The chapters are well spaced with narration by the only daughter, 12-year-old Lori Smyth-Owen, apart from one chapter when we hear from her volatile mother, Mavis.

Do we know much about filicide?

Statistically speaking, the gender of the perpetrator makes little difference, with a recent study showing that mothers are just as likely to commit the act as fathers. Although luckily filicide does not occur in The Hope Flowerthe novel features many of the risk factors that can lead up to it: domestic violence, mental illness, a history of child abuse, parental separation, and substance abuse.

The novel is dialogue heavy, and characters are developed using flashbacks or through explanations of their actions. Narrator Lori often escapes into her own thoughts which leads to multiple tangents in the text. These are her emotions from her, frustrations from her, comparisons of her family to others, fears for the future, and daydreams. Although these techniques provide excellent context, plot, and character formation, in the beginning it was hard to follow, diverting from the main story a bit too much. This improves as the novel continues.

In The Hope Flower, we glimpse a small epoch of Lori’s teenage life, as her and the family struggle to cope with their mother’s abuse and neglect. The world revolves around their mother de ella Mavis, the lead up to her newfound freedom de ella, and the consequences that come with it.

As you read the text, you would be forgiven for thinking it was not set in the present day, as the family’s access to technology is so limited. We can see this in the way Lori cherishes her de ella second-hand gifted mobile phone, and how not only is a shared computer, but the email address is shared too. In this way, the author successfully highlights how poverty and location affect one’s living standards, as well as access to education. Education is the last priority, and the children also experience social exclusion. It is a very effective way to demonstrate the different worlds people live in, and how far-removed people can be from other people’s realities.

It is therefore suitable for most audiences, although you do need the inclination to tackle novels that cover dark spaces, ongoing despair, triggering themes, and gloomy (yet realistic) characters. Author Dettman was raised in country Victoria and won an award for her collection of short stories Diamonds in the Mud. She has written several novels, including the acclaimed Mallawindy, and a seven-part series, the Woody Creek collection.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Macmillan Bread Australia
released: March 2021
RRP: $32.99

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