The Manse by Meredith Resce is set in colonial Australia when life was difficult and opportunities for women and the poor were very limited. So when Kate is left homeless and penniless she has to use her resourcefulness to find a solution. Unfortunately her solution is based on deception which is eventually exposed but not before she has gained the attention of John Laslett the new parish minister.

John struggles to help Kate because of social etiquette and his unwillingness to stand against the status quo but eventually lights upon a surprising solution which is even more challenging than he expects. John and Kate individually work through the issues of the impact of family of origin, the need to stand up for one’s beliefs and the ongoing need for forgiveness.

I enjoyed this tale which exposes some of the struggle colonial Australians experienced especially as these impacted the church. Ministers felt limited in the way they were able to respond to the circumstances of their communities because they were stifled by the wealthy land owners who paid their salaries. Offending your employer meant you could quickly find yourself unemployed which was a real possibility for John and in some churches continues today.

Overall it’s a well told and enjoyable story.

The book was first published twenty years ago. In 2016 Meredith is planning to release a re-written 20th anniversary edition.