Skylarking – Kate Mildenhall

Just to add to the theme of reading books based on real events, particularly following Hannah Kent’s The Good People, comes Skylarking. This is very loosely based on an event the author stumbled across while camping on the east coast of Australia. Skylarking follows the story of best friends Kaye and Harriet. The girls are living in Australia in the 1880’s, daughters of lighthouse keepers living in a small community. The story follows the growth of their friendship over the years with the girls sharing everything. Eventually Harriet, two years Kate’s senior, starts to leave her behind complicating their relationship until finally one moment changes their lives forever.


I found this an incredibly easy and enjoyable read, finishing it in only a day. The story sucked me in from he beginning. I have always loved lighthouses and the rugged Australian coastline so found the setting incredibly romantic and interesting. The thought of living in a time when it was so undiscovered and wild is so intriguing to myself and I just fell in love with the setting. Mildenhall describes this time and place beautifully down to the depiction of the complex relationship with the indigenous Australians, who were at the time treated so abhorrently.


What perhaps kept me so immersed in the story was the character of Kate and her intricate relationship with Harriet. I found her character so relatable even in present times. Who hasn’t felt like the didn’t quite measure up to someone else in their life? As if this other person (friend, sister, cousin) was the most perfect, beautiful, charming, captivating soul that you could never compete with. The feelings of inadequacy, of envy, of jealousy. But then the conflicting feelings of love, admirations, even captivation yourself that you hold for that person. This novel plays upon those feelings that we have all experienced. That continual battle of love and hate with someone and how each of those emotions can escape and shape your actions at different times. I found this feeling, this accurate portrayal intriguing and found myself connected to their relationship.


Mildenhall employs the use of one defining event, that is a mystery to the reader to keep the pace of the plot. References to this event and how it changed everything are made throughout the novel keeping the reader interested. You start to formulate your own hypotheses about what happens and as simple as the outcome is I had completely different ideas of where the story might go. As much as this plot device is obvious I found it worked and I was curious to see what happened to our characters.


Overall I found this book a very enjoyable read. The relationship of Kate and Harriet was fascinating but the other supporting characters were just as interesting. Some were mysterious and you wanted to know more and some were also just as relatable, seeing a little of yourself in them. I do recommend this read for something easy and light but so very consuming. I give Skylarking three fish of the sea, an important part of their life.


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