Written in a style that resembles a nineteenth-century classic, Lucy Treloar’s Salt Creek examines the challenges of a Quaker family’s settler experience in the Coorong region of South Australia. Following failed business schemes, Papa decides to relocate his family from Adelaide to a remote area known as Salt Creek. Due to Mama’s depression, Hester becomes the caretaker of her siblings: artistic Fred, headstrong Addie, hardworking Albert, baby Mary, and even Aboriginal youth Tully, who Papa believes should be civilized with proper clothes and an education. While her older brothers Hugh and Stanton assist Papa in other unsuccessful money-making ventures, the entire family struggles to endure life in their new, unforgiving home. Papa’s determination, rooted in his unwavering pride, leads to a series of misadventures that slowly tears the family apart.
Lamenting as well as nostalgic in tone, the novel is told in retrospect from Hester’s view. Inspired by fragments of stories about her ancestors, Treloar’s cinematic plot is captivating from the start. Treloar’s writing is seasoned with round characters, vivid descriptions of landscape, and offers a compassionate treatment of the oppressed, notably women and indigenous people. Salt Creek is an impressive, well-researched debut novel that adds depth to Australia’s colonial history.