By Tony Duboudin
RETURNING to her home village of Flinders after more than 20 years in Western Australia was the catalyst for Robbie Freia, above, to complete her first book.
“I remember driving on the peninsula when returning to Victoria in 2017, the contrast of the blue sea, the green trees and the wonderful smell of the dark earth. I remember, too, thinking how did I ever leave this place that felt so much like home to me,” she said.
Freia had returned to Victoria to nurse her sick sister and reconnected with Flinders where her mother was born; her grandparents’ house where she spent a lot of time as a child, is still standing in Cook Street.
Freia started writing her novel The Willow in 2015, but circumstances led to her having to put it “on hold”.
“It was being in Flinders and the sense of community that helped me get back to completing the novel,” she said.
The Willow covers the period from the 1950s to the 2000s. It is a story of an “average” Australian, Joe, and his family. Joe lives his life in Western Australia and travels around that state. His journey highlights an evolving society and the impact of war, specifically on Australian Vietnam participants and their families.
Freia emphasises that the novel is not a Vietnam War story but is as much about the social injustice of the time. She notes there are many expert books available on the war itself, such as Michael McKernan’s recent novel The Long Shadow.
As examples of injustice, she cites women forced to quit their jobs when they married; girls encouraged to take up typing and cooking rather than maths and the sciences; boys being ridiculed if they wanted to learn cooking; and sons being idolised and men having to be tough and not show their feelings.
Freia’s concern for the ongoing welfare of veterans and their families is reflected in that a percentage of each book sale will go to the Vietnam Veterans Federation of Australia.
The Willow is available at robbiefreiathewillow.com.au, Petersen’s Bookstore, Hastings and Farrell’s Bookshop, Mornington as well as online via Austin Macauley, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.