Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French

Somewhere around the corner.jpgTitle: Somewhere Around the Corner

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction/Timeslip

Publisher: Harper Collins

Published: 2nd March 1994

Format: Paperback

Pages: $16.99

Price: 288

Synopsis:Just shut your eyes and picture yourself walking around the corner. that’s what my friend told me. Somewhere around the corner and you’ll be safe. the demonstration was wild, out of control. Barbara was scared. She saw the policeman running towards her. She needed to escape. She closed her eyes and did precisely that: she walked somewhere around the corner – to another demonstration – to another time. Barbara was lucky she met young Jim who took her out of this strange, frightening city to his home. It was 1932, when Australia was in the grip of the depression, and Jim lived in a shantytown. But Barbara found a true friend and a true home – somewhere safe around the corner.

Notes from Jackie French: Some notes on the book

Awards: 1995 CBC Honor Book for Younger Readers; shortlisted 1995 WA Children’s Book of the Year; shortlisted 1995 ACT COOL Award; shortlisted 1995 NSW Family Therapist’s Award

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Barbara is alone at a demonstration in Sydney, in 1994. She bumps into an old man, who tells her about a girl who once told him to just walk around the corner to find safety. When she dopes, she feels herself being pulled and called into another world – another time. When she opens her eyes, she’s in another demonstration, this time in Sydney during 1932 and the Great Depression. She’s rescued by Young Jim, who takes her back to his home in a shanty town called Poverty Gully, where she meets Ma, Dad, Thellie, Elaine, Joey and Harry, as well as Gully Jack, the Hendersons, Dulcie at the dairy farm and the local police officer, Sergeant Ryan. Here, though times are hard, Barbara finds a family, and a safe place and friends. She’s welcomed into the O’Reilly family wholly and adored by all, and cared for carefully by everyone in the O’Reilly circle as she finds a way to adapt to this strange new life in a valley filled with hope, love and family during a time in history when many were unemployed and homeless, and trying to make do with what they had, and get whatever work they could get – struggles that lasted until the outbreak of war, when those who could entered the army, others entered industries that helped the war effort and economies across the world were rebuilt slowly.

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This was the first Jackie French book I read – back in year seven English, with Mrs Cohen. I have read Jackie French and historical fiction since then, sometimes on and off depending on what I could find, and what was available in the library, as well as all my other reading, and I still have all my Jackie French novels – including my copy of this one from year seven. It was also one of my earliest introductions to events like the Depression, and it made the events of 1932 accessible to a younger audience in a truthful and reflective way, without shying away from the truth, but at the same time, without being too overwhelming – a lot of her books do this and they are filled with such great emotion and spirit, I am currently trying to read or re-read all the ones by Jackie that I have.

Her books are often inspired by real people she knew or knows, coupled with the untold stories in history, the voices ignored such as the poor, women, disabled, and many other groups often left out of the discourses. This is why they are so powerful, and why Somewhere Around the Corner which has been out for twenty-five years this year, based on the publication information I found, and in my yes, has not only stood the test of time, but reflects society then and what many experienced, and what some people face today – job and housing insecurity. It holds up because these experiences, and the experiences of Barbara and the O’Reillys, are and can be universal.

Living in 1932 with the knowledge of what is to come, the O’Reilly’s see the things Barbara tells them as wild stories, and fantasies at times, though Young Jim and Thellie believe her. What I loved about this story, and all of Jackie’s stories, is the equal prominence she gives to plot, history and characters, neatly bringing them all together to create eloquent and insightful stories, often set during times of hardship or times of social change and upheaval, and seen through the eyes of those often not heard in the history books – making these stories powerful for all to read and learn from.

I am glad I finally read this again after finding my copy – as my first introduction to Jackie French, and time slip, young adult and historical fiction novels, it is very special to me, and I hope it will be read and enjoyed by others as well.

The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier *Debut novel*

oceans edgeTitle: The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge

Author: Kali Napier

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 30th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 410

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Every family has secrets that bind them togetherA heart-rending story of a guesthouse keeper and his wife who attempt to start over, from devastatingly talented debut author Kali Napier.

  1. Ernie and Lily Hass, and their daughter, Girlie, have lost almost everything in the Depression; all they have keeping their small family together are their secrets. Abandoning their failing wheat farm and small-town gossip, they make a new start on the west coast of Australia where they begin to build a summer guesthouse. But forming new alliances with the locals isn’t easy.

Into the Hasses’ new life wanders Lily’s shell-shocked brother, Tommy, after three harrowing years on the road following his incarceration. Tommy is seeking answers that will cut to the heart of who Ernie, Lily and Girlie really are.

Inspired by the author’s own family history, The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge is a haunting, memorable and moving tale of one family’s search for belonging. Kali Napier breathes a fever-pitch intensity into the story of these emotionally fragile characters as their secrets are revealed with tragic consequences. If you loved The Light Between Oceans and The Woolgrower’s Companion you will love this story.

‘Kali Napier may be a debut author but she is certainly no novice. The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge is an incredible novel, a story layered with all of the hallmarks that make for an Australian classic.’ – Theresa Smith

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AWW-2018-badge-roseThe Secrets at Ocean’s Edge is a story about a family and the secrets they are hiding from each other, and the small towns they live in – Perenjori, on the wheat farm – Cowanup Downs, and the town they move to at the height of the Great Depression in 1932 – Dongarra (spelt with two r’s at the time) in Western Australia. Ernie, his wife Lily, and their daughter, Girlie have left a failing wheat farm for a new life and new guest-house venture in Dongarra by the ocean. Here, they are determined to hide their secrets – from each other and from the close-knit town – unsure of who they can trust. As hints drop at their secrets – Lily’s Arnott’s tin, Ernie’s frequent absences, and Girlie’s questions about the Feheely family and why Ruby Feheely can’t go to school with her – more secrets are destined to come out, especially when Lily’s brother, Tommy arrives – still scarred from The Great War, after six years apart, and Tommy’s search for his family. The secrets Lily has kept from him will set off a chain reaction of events, where even the most innocent of secrets can harm, and where the Hasses secrets are unlikely to stay secret forever.

Kali has used her own family history as inspiration for this story, and woven these family stories and history together with research and fictional characters to create an engaging story. It is a story about what the love for family does, and what people will do for family and to protect themselves and those they love. Likened to The Light Between Oceans, The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge reveal the flaws of humanity and the attitudes of small towns to something a little bit different, and how the people involved cope with this. I’m finding that Australian Women Writers have a wonderful way or using more than just romantic love to tell a story, and when it is used, it fits in with the rest of the story and doesn’t overpower the driving force of the plot. In The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge, Kali Napier has achieved all of this, and diversity within her novel where the characters and plot drive the novel in equal amounts, ensuring that the history is presented realistically and the characters are true to themselves. A wonderful debut that I recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, and stories about family love with a depth that allows the flaws as well as the good characteristics of Lily, Girlie, Ernie and the other characters to shine through.

This marks off square two in row two of my Book Bingo and will be linked back to in one of the write ups to come in the next few weeks.

Kali Napier’s debut novel, The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award as her first manuscript. It was also a finalist in the Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program.

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