All that Glitters (Australian Historical Saga #4), by David Field

Eight stars

David Field concludes this impactful tetralogy by expanding the focus on colonial Australia, while keeping the Bradbury family front and centre throughout the narrative. Jack Bradbury has continued to make a name for himself in the legal world, such that he is called down to Melbourne, as gold is discovered in the region. This begins a series of events that include a push for more democratisation and a free press. As the Bradbury family ages and tackles new challenges, Australia leaves infancy and wanders toward an awkward adolescence. Field is brilliant as ever, with this novel and the series as a whole.

Jack Bradbury has discovered his passion in the law, choosing to use it to balance the scales of justice. With the discovery of gold in the south, prospectors and workers flood the area, which is sure to cause the odd skirmish or two. Jack makes his way there to defend a man accused of attacking a police officer, who was himself assaulting a hapless immigrant worker. It is then that Jack gets a taste of the new Australia, where rules are not simply accepted by the masses, many of whom demand representation in order to have their voices heard. In the same vein, a free and published press begins voicing ideas, not altogether supportive of Jack and his legal maneuvers.

After settling his family around Melbourne, Jack watches his daughter, Emily, grow up and find a passion for education. First, in a small school house, where she cannot get enough of learning, and later as a teacher herself. The story moves to explore Emily’s maturity and how she handles being a woman in Australia, with suitors trying to force her to settle down and direct her. Emily pushes back, wanting to carve out her own niche, without compromising the Bradbury name.

As the years pass, both Jack and Emily forge onwards in their separate professions, all while Australia inches towards an awkward adolescence, still under the thumb of the mighty British Empire. Change is ever-present and the people of this colony watch to see what awaits them, with independence on the horizon and the 20th century set to bestow forced maturity. David Field has done much to keep the reader enlightened in this series and this culmination is a classic end to what has been a stellar presentation.

David Field exudes passion in his writing and desire to include the reader on a formidable journey. Field provides a strong narrative and plausible dialogue, leaving the reader feeling in the middle of the action. Each novel is vastly different from the others, with this being perhaps the most impactful from a character and plot development angle. Field has done much in a short period to offer up needed themes that put Australia the country, the colony, and the collection of people into context, educating the reader while keeping things somewhat light.

Jack Bradbury resumes the role as central protagonist in the early portion of the novel, but bows out to allow his daughter, Emily, to take over. Emily is growing up in a still as yet confused Australia, where British rule is strong, but new ideas and freedoms are on the horizon. Emily is independent, while still drawing on the life lessons her Bradbury family instilled in her, allowing the reader to see wonderful connections and new explorations. Liberation, democracy, and equality resonate from characters throughout the story, keeping the reader on their toes as things progress.

David Field has shown time and again that he is a master at whatever he presents in his books. This collection of four novels about the early Australian colony not only opened my eyes to the goings-on, but also including a well-balanced piece of fiction. A keen narrative depicts the struggles that many faced as British tried to keep its far off colony in line, counterbalanced with the need for democracy. Key characters make their presence known at various points, allowing the reader to connect with many of them. The plot, which offers historical events and fictitious happenings, proves to be perfect for the length of novel Field presents. While it is impossible to pull everything into a short tetralogy, David Field has done so well and I am pleased I took a few days to read these four books. I hope others will do the same, when time permits.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for such a a great series. You really do have elements of some other authors who have masted multi-generational series about colonial lands, but you stand alone in your delivery as well.