An Australian historian determined to find the truth, a stolen inheritance, a wishing tree, a long-lost grandmother, and an unlikely sweetheart come together in this story about love, honour and belonging. The Secret Son is a novel about many things but mostly, it’s about the strength of women and what it means to be a good man.
I know that two men are coming up the mountain, at this moment, including the boy from far away. I wonder what my grandson’s face will look like…This is a boy in the skin of a man. I know he is innocent; it’s his family soul which is guilty.
An old woman sits waiting in a village that clings to a Turkish mountainside, where the women weave rugs, make tea and keep blood secrets that span generations. Berna can see what others cannot, so her secrets are deeper and darker than most. It is time for her to tell her story, even though the man for whom her words are meant won’t hear them. It is time for the truth to be told. Nearly a hundred years before, her father James had come to the village on the back of a donkey, gravely ill, rescued from the abandoned trenches of Gallipoli by a Turkish boy whose life he had earlier spared. James made his life there, never returning to Australia and never realising that his father was indeed the near-mythical bushranger that the gossips had hinted at when he’d been a boy growing up in Beechworth.
Now, as Berna waits, a young man from Melbourne approaches to visit his parents’ village, against the vehement opposition of his cursed, tight-lipped grandfather. What is the story behind the dark deeds that connect the two men, unknown to each other and living almost a century apart?
Peter Pierce in The Australian said:
[The Secret Son is] rich in complications and worthy of Ackland’s varied narrative gifts. She has a keen sense of characters’ capacity for distracting reverie and she is also adept at elision: releasing information with unexpected and telling effects.
Ackland [has] given us [a first novel] that reshape[s] familiar historical material with originality and dash; sustains [her] strange tales with assurance; move[s] confidently between countries and eras, intimate and national histories; offer[s] [one] more indication of the present and future health of Australian fiction.
Published 2015, Allen & Unwin