Finding Eliza is set in 1921 and tells the story of a young man, Knill, and his journey to find his true identity. It’s a story of belonging and family, of responsibility and social mores. It is also strongly about connection to place. In fact the novel is vivid in its sense of place. I will avoid spoilers but as Knill journeys mentally and emotionally he also journeys physically. In each new environment Heather crafts locations that are evocative and clear, that nurture a contemporary reader through the locations of the past. Sometimes when reading historical fiction I find a wedge between myself and the ‘place’ of the novel. Sometimes I feel like an author has dedicated so much effort to ensure that readers connect with their characters that I feel like I am walking through a dimly lit room. While I’m holding the hand of a character I want to see the space clearly, to see the moment in time and what life was like then, but it is missed. This is not the case in Finding Eliza. Each location that Knill finds himself in is evocative making the book a joy to read.
Knill is a delightful protagonist. I enjoyed working through the doubts, frustrations and excitements with him, especially through moments where he challenges himself. The cast of friends around him are equally as infectious and well written.
I must confess to being biased in my reading. Years ago (pre-kids when I had a thing called ‘spare-time’) I used to workshop with Heather. I loved reading the early passages of Knill’s adventures each month, just as I enjoyed receiving Heather’s feedback which was always knowledgeable. So to finally hold in my hand the outcome of all of those years of workshopping was inspiring. All the writers who sat around that table were fantastic writers and I hope their work is published soon as well. Being part of a writing community has some wonderful benefits and seeing your friends publish something that they have worked on for so long is a great feeling. Congratulations to Heather on such a brilliant book.
Heather Whitford Roche, Finding Eliza. 2018, Allandow Press.