In 1944 Emily Dean is dispatched from Melbourne to stay with relatives in rural Victoria. At the family property, Mount Prospect, she finds that Grandmother is determined to keep up standards despite the effects of the war, while Della, the bible-quoting cook, rules the kitchen with religious fervour. If only Emily’s young aunt – the beautiful, fearless Lydia – would bestow her friendship, but that seems destined never to occur. Emily can’t wait to go home.
But things start to improve when she encounters Claudio, the Italian prisoner of war employed as a farm labourer. And become more interesting still when William, Lydia’s brother, unexpectedly returns from the war, wounded and bitter. He’s rude, traumatised, and mostly drunk, yet a passion for literature soon draws them together.
Funny, wry and affecting, The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean is a charming coming-of-age novel about desire, deceit and self-discovery.