The rebels of Mount Buffalo by Helen Edwards

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I was fortunate to hear South Australian author Helen Edwards speak passionately about her upcoming debut book The Rebels of Mount Buffalo in early 2023. During her engaging presentation she shared her incredible knowledge of the Mount Buffalo area and her extensive research into the life of ‘Guide Alice’ Manfield. This background research and knowledge is certainly evident in her recently released novel and her stunning descriptions of the scenic environment, the hiking trails and the chalet will have readers planning their next holiday!

The story of Clara and Alice primarily takes place in two time frames: 1998 and 1893. In 1998 the reader is introduced to Clara who has tragically lost her twin brother two years earlier in a car accident and her whole world has fallen apart. Her grief-stricken parents have separated, Clara struggles with bullying at school, and feels deeply that the loss of her outgoing and popular brother Darius is something she may never recover from.

Frequent holidays to the Mount Buffalo Chalet were once the highlight for the close-knit family and this year they must travel there for the Centenary celebrations without Darius, and with each carrying their own unspoken grief and guilt. Clara previously researched ‘Guide Alice’ for a school assignment and is fascinated by Alice’s incredible tenacity and resilience to overcome the dangers of trekking and guiding people up Mount Buffalo. Clara has always enjoyed the history of the area and she and Alice share a love of photography. It is during the celebrations that Clara, through the lens of Alice’s camera, is transported back to 1893 where she meets Alice and becomes a part of her family for a short time. While Clara is there she learns about day-to-day 1890’s life at the hotel belonging to the Manfield family and with Alice, is caught up in a dangerous adventure.

This thoughtful and absorbing story is one where the reader also has the opportunity to learn snippets from history including the effects of the Depression of the 1890’s and Women’s Rights, plus meet historical figures such as Alice Manfield and John Monash. Most importantly the story is about Clara finding the strength and courage to show what she is capable of and learning that the heart can begin to heal.

Themes: Historical Fiction, Family, Grief, Timeslip, Bullying, Mount Buffalo, Australia, Friendship, Courage, Adventure.

Kathryn Beilby