HOPE FARM by Peggy Frew
A very interesting discussion of this book’s characters, plot and writing took place in our meeting. Some members of the group felt that the plot was predictable with one finding it a stunted storyline and boring. All agreed that the book was well written with some flashes of excellent description: our introduction to Jindi, the physicality of Miller and his initial hold over Ishtar and the Ruth Rendellesque depiction of Silver’s clandestine observation of Ian at his “trap” being some examples of this excellence. Certain characters and environments, it was agreed, were very well developed so that readers had clear images of dimensionality. Ian and the commune, at the ironically named Hope Farm, were particularly well evoked.
The major contentions within the group were: was Ishtar a good mother and why didn’t she take up Dan’s offer to leave the commune and go with him to America? It was interesting that the men in the group thought Ishtar was a bad mother, with one finding her behaviour toward Silver to border on child abuse. The females in the group were more forgiving, defending Ishtar, finding that the author had shown, through the coldness of Ishtar’s own parents’ style of parenting, why she behaved as she did.
Not leaving with Dan also divided members, with a man seeing it as a foolish act as leaving would have given her and her daughter a better life. The women felt that, by not going with Dan, Ishtar was breaking the habits of her past and seeking independence, something that she claimed to want.
Hope Farm may have had an ending that was a little too obvious – something bad would happen readers knew and it was too easy to guess what, but the book was an easy read (indicative of good writing, for one member of the group) and, for most group members, an entertaining read.
Initially I thought it was quite an average read going a little slow but so very beautifully written, some of the words and phrasings were wonderful. Then I really got into it and finished it in a few days, there were so many angles and elements covered it was hard to put down and it flowed so well, with lots of action in the middle part of the book.
The characters I felt were wonderfully developed, I really felt for her being told to give up her child by the harsh parents. Reading the book from Silver’s view was a brilliant twist on a novel, the way the author included snippets from Ishtar also dropped in told a full tale of hope, sorrow, times of happiness and despair – I really felt I moved through all emotions with the book as it developed.
The bit I felt was a bit of a disappointment is the way the relationship between Ishtar and Silver was handled as she got older but then surprise elements like the scene at the fire blew me away with good old Ian whose character I absolutely loved.
Miller’s character was quite predictable, but then she threw in the wife to keep us on our toes, and I loved how the relationship with Silver and Ian developed. The end of the book just kind of finished, I guess there was so much drama throughout it was natural to slowly peter out but it did leave me wanting a more finished ending I suppose.