With a sprawling cast that crosses continents and generations, McInerney introduces us to the Donovan and Templeton families, their lives inextricably linked through the years as, at various stages, they succumb to guilt, jealousy, selfishness, loyalty and passion with just a hint of love. The authorís gentle tones give her characters so much emotional heft that she renders many of them as familiar as members of our own families.
A devastating accident splits the major characters apart
and forms the melodramatic crux of the novel, but the unique setting is most distinctive. The gold-mining town
of Castlemaine Victoria and the picaresque grounds of Templeton Hall are the perfect backdrop for what at first appears to be a family saga when two neighbors Tom and Gracie fall in love after a serendipitous meeting on the grounds of the Hall.
For Gracieís parents, Henry and Eleanor Templeton, the Hall has become an unexpected tourist attraction. Recent transplants from England, they have come together with Gracieís siblings
- Charlotte, Audrey and Spencer - to earn their living by pretending to be aristocracy. Charging for tours while also presenting themselves as wards of the Hall, the family spend their days advertising the Hallís history along with its beautiful contents.
Nina Donovan, who rents a house just five-minutes walk across the paddock, has heard about the ďmad bloody TempletonsĒ and
is wary of this eccentric family. She recently had a run-in with Hope, Eleanorís sister, who throws racist, drunken rants that upset not
only Nina but Eleanor and the whole of the Templeton family. From the slow flush of first passion to the dysfunctions of marriage, familial revelations culminate in a rift between Nina, Eleanor and Henry,
and all survive it emotionally scarred.
Nina has never quite come to terms with the truck accident that killed Nick, Tomís father. Overprotective to the last, Nina is determined to shield Tom from lifeís rocky roads. Amid glowing eucalyptus trunks, broad paddocks, and gentle tree-covered hills, Nina finally allows herself and her son to be pulled into the Templetons' orbit. But as Gracie and Tomís friendship steadily evolves into something adoring, Nina realizes
that she that should have trusted her instincts and kept her distance from this selfish and erratic family.
From Melbourne to Chicago, London to Ireland, and onto New Zealand, McInerney saturates her story with international flavor as the Templeton children mature and navigate though their respective paths.
Each becomes successful in their own right. Most charming is Gracie, as she transforms from a well-educated, gullible and earnest eleven-year -old into a troubled young woman plagued by an overriding love for Tom, seduced by his calm nature and soft, gentle humor.
McInerney's characters must learn to face lifeís challenges head-on. While Tomís bourgeoning career as a cricketer gives the novel a distinctly Aussie flavor, the gift of a silver whistle remains a constant symbol for Gracie as she waits for Tom down through the years, her love reaching across oceans and beyond geography in this entertaining, charming story.