The Ripping Tree by Nikki Gemmell

Published: 2021 Genre: Historical fiction 1. First lines. 2. Cover: Harper Collins 3. Writing [Public Domain] via pxhere 4. Paperbark tree. [CC BY 2.0] By cultivar413 via flickr

A shipwreck bringing people to the colony, has only one survivor – a young woman coming to Australia for an arranged marriage. She is saved by an Aboriginal man who takes her to the Craw family, colonists living at an isolated property called Willowbrae. The story takes place over the seven following days when she uncovers some shocking secrets being held by the family.

“That’s my Ripping Tree … They’re magic because you can use their bark for a million things. Shelters and sleeping mats. Canoes. To cook things in, under the coals. And for torches for fishing at night, to lure in the catch. Just about anything.”

“The Ripping Tree” by Nikki Gemmell

Glanceabook: The shocking mystery (all the more shocking because of the realities in Australia’s colonial history) at the heart of this story unfurls tantalisingly slowly. The author has portrayed this era perfectly through believable characters and a realistic setting. Using a foreword and an afterword to place the story within a story worked well.

The Canberra Times: The problem with Nikki Gemmell’s latest book is that the reader gets so bogged down in the elegant prose that the story is in danger of being ignored… this is an uncomfortable reminder of early Australian history. If ever a book deserved to become a classic, The Ripping Tree does.


Let’s just say my little tale is a history of a great colonial house that was burdened by a situation that was never resolved, and I fear all over this land will never be resolved. It is our great wound that needs suturing and it hasn’t been yet and I fear, perhaps, it never will be, for we’re not comfortable, still, with acknowledging it.

“I shiver a flinch at the bash of the voices, at the greedy faces all wanting me to be someone else.”

“My scratchy eyes were losing sight, my torn skin was invaded by sting, and there was no fight in me left.”

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