Wild Chicory is the story of a journey from Ireland to Australia in the early 1900s, along threads of love, family, war and peace. It’s a slice of ordinary life rich in history, folklore and fairy tale, and a portrait of the precious bond between a granddaughter, Brigid, and her grandmother, Nell.
From the windswept, emerald coast of County Kerry, to the slums of Sydney’s Surry Hills; and from the bitter sectarian violence of Ulster, to tranquillity of rural New South Wales, Brigid weaves her grandmother’s tales into a small but beautiful epic of romance and tragedy, of laughter and the cold reality of loss. It’s Nell’s tales, tall and true, that spur Brigid to write her own, too.
Ultimately, it’s a story of finding your feet in a new land – be that a new country, or a new emotional space – and the wonderful trove of narrative we carry with us wherever we might go.
In many ways Brigid and Nell are Kim and her grandmother Lillian Kelly, and many snippets of story in this work belong especially to them. It is primarily a work of fiction, but while the Kennedys and the O’Halligans in Wild Chicory are not the Kellys and O’Reillys of Kim’s own family history, they have sprung direct from her heart, and show readers just how it is she came to be a writer of stories herself.
I've never met Kim Kelly, author, other than on Facebook. I have read and enjoyed her previous published novels, so when the publisher (The Author People) asked if I'd like to read her latest offering, Wild Chicory, I didn't hesitate. At only ninety-two pages I figured a novella would be a short read. As expected, I read the ninety-two pages in one sitting. What I didn't expect were tears-mine! Not because the ending was a sad one, but because the significance of Brigid Boszko's storytelling became clear to me in the final chapter. (I think I even gasped.) Wild Chicory is absolutely remarkable reading and a rich and wonderful history lesson that every child-every person-in Australia should read. (If I had been given this at school instead of Jamaica Inn I might have fallen in love earlier with reading, and writing, Aussie stories!) For the reader, Wild Chicory is a step back in time. A celebration of Australia and (what Kim, herself, describes as) 'the economic refugees who have made and continue to make our country what it is: a colourful patchwork of beauty and bigotry both, all sewn together with love'. For any writers out there: Wild Chicory is a short and extremely enjoyable lesson in clever crafting, superb structure, and the perfect use of POV. Like her character, Brigid Boszko, Kim Kelly is wonderful storyteller and 'her' story is so real I wanted more pages to read. My opinion: This novella is the author's tour de force. With a sublime narrative voice Wild Chicory is the kind of story that lingers long after the last page. - Jenn J McLeod (Author)