Thursday 6 February 2014

Book Review: Past Imperfect by Winfreda Donald

Review by Hazel Barker

Author’s Overview

Freya is the middle child and odd-one-out in the close but dislocated Dunbar family in Australia. When Freya meets soul mate Alexander Marcou at High School in 1976 her thwarted efforts to forge an identity amid secrets and gaps in the family history lose their urgency. Fate intervenes and the pair are suddenly oceans apart - Freya helping Gramma in Scotland. They make the best of a lengthening separation by studying to prepare for their travel adventures around nursing, teaching and flying. 

But destiny hasn't finished with them. Malevolent forces swirl under their radar to part them permanently. Bewildered and betrayed, both grieve deeply in disbelief. Eventually Alexander marries. Scarred by her experience with Alexander, Freya shies clear of commitments. Superficially serene, the questions simmer and identity issues trouble her again. Immersion in work is a forlorn but effective way to suppress dreams of a lost future. 

In the 1990s while undertaking nursing research, Freya meets Reg Prentiss an Australian IT expert. After their professional friendship transforms to a whirlwind courtship, they marry and head for a new life DownUnder. Determined to set the past aside, Freya commits to this marriage and the children she and Reg plan to have.


Past Imperfect is the first book in the Long Shadows Series. It is a brilliantly conceived plot, which lets the action unfold, and culminates in an unexpected climax.

The Prologue seems unnecessary and fails to add meaning to the story until page 63, when it is revealed that what Freya had witnessed as a child had been a vision. The author intersperses action with dialogue, and every now and then waxes into a lyrical style.

Although written with clarity, the debut novel tends to have too much detail at times, and pace slows down a bit. The author handles the various points of view, but lapses into head-hopping on pages 95 and 96. The characters’ motivations and feelings are clearly revealed, making them believable but the love scenes are stilted and minor errors in editing detract from the reader’s attention.

The warm and wonderful letters between the two parted lovers are a delight to read. Like Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, romance readers will keep biting their nails, wondering when the twain will meet.

I recommend Past Imperfect to those anxious to follow the characters and witness the mystery and suspense unfold with each successive book. 


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