An Australian historian determined to find the truth, a stolen inheritance, a wishing tree, a long-lost grandmother, and an unlikely sweetheart come together in a dazzlingly original and audacious debut by Jenny Ackland.
I know that two men are coming up the mountain, at this moment, including the boy from far away. I wonder what my grandson’s face will look like… This is a boy in the skin of a man. I know he is innocent; it’s his family soul which is guilty.
An old woman sits waiting in a village that clings to a Turkish mountainside, where the women weave rugs, make tea and keep blood secrets that span generations. Berna can see what others cannot, so her secrets are deeper and darker than most. It is time for her to tell her story, even though the man for whom her words are meant won’t hear them. It is time for the truth to be told.
Nearly a hundred years before, her father James had come to the village gravely ill, rescued from the abandoned trenches of Gallipoli by a Turkish boy whose life he had earlier spared. James made his life there, never returning to Australia and never realising that his father was indeed the near-mythical bushranger that the gossips had hinted at when he’d been a boy growing up in Beechworth.
Now, as Berna waits, a young man from Melbourne approaches to visit his parents’ village, against the vehement opposition of his cursed, tight-lipped grandfather. What is the astonishing story behind the dark deeds that connect the two men, unknown to each other and living almost a century apart?
Jenny Ackland’s The Secret Son is a remarkable and exhilarating debut. At once joyous and haunting, and a moving meditation on love, honour and belonging, it is a story about the strength of women and what it means to be a good man.
Jenny Ackland has developed strong connections to Turkey over the last twenty-five years, falling in love with the country after she fell in love with and married a Turkish man while travelling as a young woman. The novel is infused with her love for that country and its people. She is a teacher and writer who now lives with her family in East St Kilda.
Jenny had short fiction published in RMIT’s Visible Ink anthology, the Big Issue fiction issue (2013), Kill Your Darlings and The Sleepers Almanac. In 2012 she had two stories short-listed in the UK’s Bridport Prize, an essay long-listed in the inaugural Voiceless Prize, and her novel was short-listed (subsequently withdrawn) in the HarperCollins Varuna Awards for Manuscript Development.
Image: The Secret Son