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One woman. Two men. War. Tragedy. Love.

Twenty-year-old Amelia marries Italo, a man she’s never met. To escape an Italy reeling from the Great War, she sails to him in Far North Queensland to farm sugarcane. But before she meets her husband, she’s thrown into the path of Fergus, a man who’ll mark the rest of her life.

Faced with a lack of English and hostility from established cane growers, caught between warring unions and fascists, Amelia’s steady hand grows Italo’s business to great success, only for old grudges to break into new revenge. She is tested by forces she couldn’t foresee and must face her greatest challenge: learning to live again.

Sweeping in its outlook, Sweet Bitter Cane is a family saga but also an untold story of migrant women – intelligent, courageous and enduring women who were the backbone of the sugarcane industry and who deserve to be remembered.

Praise for Sweet Bitter Cane -

"I think this is G.S Johnston’s best novel yet. I had so much empathy with Amelia and her story. Sweet Bitter Cane is an outstanding read. I couldn’t put it down." - Dianne Murray, Amazon Review

"Wow. Passionate, intense, gripping, emotional, and a journey I don't think I'll ever forget. This is not only an historical masterclass in how to covert a tonne of research into pure storytelling, it's a lesson to anyone who writes with a time and a place as central to their novels." - B. Marshall, Amazon Review

"I loved this book. I live very close to the location that this book is set in and I know, not the people, but the environs, the hardship, the terror of cyclones, the drifting black clouds of cane fire smoke.The story of Amelia coming from Italy to be with a man she married in Italy without ever having met him, based on love letters written by someone else, was dreadfully sad but so redolent of the times.The Fascism thought to be the answer in Italy and then Germany decimate so many lives under the guise of benefiting the population. A wonderful story, beautifully written in the language of the era." - Gabi Plumm, Amazon Review

About The Author

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G.S. Johnston is the author of three historical novels, Sweet Bitter Cane (2019), The Cast of a Hand (2015), The Skin of Water (2012). And a fourth novel set in contemporary Hong Kong, Consumption (2011).

The novels are noted for their complex characters and well-researched settings. In one form or another, Johnston has always written, at first composing music and lyrics. After completing a degree in pharmacy, a year in Italy re-ignited his passion for writing and he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. Feeling the need for a broader canvas, he started writing short stories and novels.

Originally from Hobart, Tasmania, Johnston currently lives in Canberra, Australia. He is treasurer of the Historical Novel Society Australasia. Find more fabulous things at He would be impressed with humanity if someone could succeed in putting an extra hour in every day.

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