P is for Pearl by Eliza Henry Jones

p is for pearl.jpgTitle: P is for Pearl

Author: Eliza Henry Jones

Genre: Young Adult, Literary

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 19th of February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A POIGNANT READ BURSTING WITH HEARTACHE, GRIEF AND SMALL-TOWN FAMILY SECRETS THAT WILL DRAW YOU IN UNTIL THE FINAL PAGE’
– Gabrielle Tozer, award-winning author of The InternFaking It and Remind Me How This Ends

Seventeen-year-old Gwendolyn P. Pearson has become very good at not thinking about the awful things that have happened to her family.

She has also become used to people talking about her dead mum. Or not talking about her and just looking at Gwen sympathetically.

And it’s easy not to think about awful things when there are wild beaches to run along, best friends Loretta and Gordon to hang out with – and a stepbrother to take revenge on.

But following a strange disturbance at the cafe where she works, Gwen is forced to confront what happened to her family all those years ago. And she slowly comes to realise that people aren’t as they first appear and that like her, everyone has a story to tell.

From the talented author of the celebrated novels In the Quiet and Ache comes a poignant and moving book that explores the stories we tell ourselves about our families, and what it means to belong.


PRAISE

P is for Pearl is a complex, authentic exploration of grief, friendship, mental illness, family and love, sensitively written by a writer whose voice will resonate with teen readers.’  Books+Publishin

~*~

Gwendolyn P. Pearson hides the dark family secrets that have plagued her family for years very well, and she is good at it. For years, the small Tasmanian town of Clunes has whispered and spoken about her mother, who died when Gwen was a child, one of two family tragedies that happened within months of each other. Gwen has her best friends, Loretta and Gordon, school and running to distract her – that is, until a strange incident at the cafe she works at triggers a memory, and Gwen must confront her memories. When new kids, Ben and Amber arrive in town, Gwen is torn between letting them be, and befriending them and their aunt. As she tries to hide secrets from everyone and hide from her past, it is Ben who will show her that the surface of someone is not always what they seem, and that it is okay to be angry when you are hurt.

AWW-2018-badge-roseP for Pearl completes my book bingo for the first half of 2018 – this will be in a separate post next Saturday, and then I am embarking on round two, using the same card but hopefully, different books as much as I can. First written when Eliza was sixteen, P for Pearl is the world of tragedy and loneliness seen through the eyes of a teenager whose understanding of what happened is coloured by what she wants to believe, and what, as a child, she was told or led to believe. Through narrative and diary entries, Gwen’s story is slowly revealed, and we see the pain she has been in for years, slowly emerging and bubbling its way to the top following the smashed windows at work.

Gwen’s family – her father, stepmother Biddy, step-brother Tyrone and half-sister Evie, are all key figures in the way Gwen experiences her life, and of them all, she seems to feel closer to Evie at first, and a little distanced from the rest of her family, perhaps feeling a little lost in it all. Tyrone is older – and at first, is rather annoying but later, I found something endearing about him and the way he genuinely cared for Gwen, which comes through gradually as she comes to terms with her confusion and pain. In the end, Tyrone, Ben, Loretta and Gordon are the ones who help her come through her pain and the realisation of the painful family history that has haunted her.

P for Pearl is aimed at teenagers but is a novel that speaks to the grief and complicated events and tragedies in life that we all face and endure. Gwen’s voice is genuine, and works well in the novel, as is the character growth and learning little bits about characters as the novel progresses. A greet novel to check off my final bingo box.

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The Ship That Never Was: The Greatest Escape of Australian Colonial History by Adam Courtenay

ship that never was.jpgTitle: The Ship That Never Was: The Greatest Escape of Australian Colonial History

Author: Adam Courtenay

Genre: History, Non-fiction

Publisher: ABC Books/HarperCollins

Published: 21st May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $29.99

Synopsis:
The greatest escape story of Australian colonial history by the son of Australia’s best-loved storyteller

In 1823, cockney sailor and chancer James Porter was convicted of stealing a stack of beaver furs and transported halfway around the world to Van Diemen’s Land. After several escape attempts from the notorious penal colony, Porter, who told authorities he was a ‘beer-machine maker’, was sent to Macquarie Harbour, known in Van Diemen’s Land as hell on earth.

Many had tried to escape Macquarie Harbour; few had succeeded. But when Governor George Arthur announced that the place would be closed and its prisoners moved to the new penal station of Port Arthur, Porter, along with a motley crew of other prisoners, pulled off an audacious escape. Wresting control of the ship they’d been building to transport them to their fresh hell, the escapees instead sailed all the way to Chile. What happened next is stranger than fiction, a fitting outcome for this true-life picaresque tale.

The Ship That Never Was is the entertaining and rollicking story of what is surely the greatest escape in Australian colonial history. James Porter, whose memoirs were the inspiration for Marcus Clarke’s For the Term of his Natural Life, is an original Australian larrikin whose ingenuity, gift of the gab and refusal to buckle under authority make him an irresistible anti-hero who deserves a place in our history.

~*~

There are many stories within the realms of national and international history that are not known, or where there might not be as much known about them as some, usually for a variety of reasons. One of these is the escape of ten convicts from the worst convict prison in Australia in the 1830s. James Porter was transported in 1823, for stealing a sack of beaver furs. He was sent to what was then known as Van Diemen’s Land – renamed Tasmania in 1856. He made several attempts to escape from the penal colony, and as a result, was sent to the notorious Sarah Island.

It was not long until Governor George Arthur declared Sarah Island would be closing, and the inmates moved to the infamous Port Arthur prison. Porter and a band of inmates took this chance to take control of the ship they were on – the Frederick, and escaped across the seas to South America, where they lived in Chile for many years as free men, before being sent back under the authority of the British colonial government at the time.

Told in a style that is engaging, whilst dealing with the historical facts and vents of a little-known convict and mutiny, I found this interesting to read, as it expanded upon what I have previously been taught and have read about Australian history. Whilst much is known about colonial era history, there are still stories that haven’t been told about various aspects – and having access to these stories allows us to wholly understand where Australia came from in the years of penal colonies and convict arrivals from 1788 until the transports ended in 1868, though different colonies stopped their transportations at different times.

It reads as both non-fiction and fiction – not overly embellished, but still capturing the spirit of the times and adventure that Porter wrote about in his journal. The author, Adam Courtenay, writes about Porter with fascination, yet allows himself to see the flaws and exaggerations that Porter wrote of, explaining in the text that the facts found in historical records about floggings and the details of how far punishments could be taken or were taken alongside Porter’s experience. What this does is show that even first person accounts that historians rely on are not always reliable, and I felt, even though I have only read the uncorrected proof, that Courtenay took what he had from Porter with a grain of salt and compared it to other accounts, and historical records to create his book.

In doing so, Courtenay has created a work that sparks an interest in this person and era, but also shows that good research is crucial – I would be interested to see if the final copy includes a bibliography, for further reading, and to show what sources he was able to find, as I imagine a little-known story such as this might not have as many sources as stories and legends that are well-known within the national consciousness.

As someone who has studied history, I know to examine various sources and accounts, just as it appears Courtenay has done. I will be looking for more information on Porter where I can, to supplement this book and build a larger picture of this man who managed to escape from Tasmania to Chile and live for several months to at least a year or two without being sent back. An intriguing book that shows that Australian history is more complex than we are originally taught.

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Miles Franklin: A Short Biography by Jill Roe

Miles Franklin Short BioTitle: Miles Franklin: A Short Biography

Author: Jill Roe

Genre: Non-fiction, biography

Publisher: HarperCollins, 4th Estate

Published: 23rd April 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 432

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Author, union organiser, WW1 volunteer, agitator, nationalist, Miles Franklin dedicated her life to many causes, none more passionately than Australian literature. Propelled to fame aged only twenty-one in the wake of her bestselling novel, My Brilliant Career, she never achieved the same literary success, but her life was rich and productive. She rose to the position of secretary of the National Women’s Trade Union League of America; served in a medical unit in the Balkans; was a first wave feminist in the US, Britain and Australia; published sixteen novels as well as numerous non-fiction books and articles; and maintained friendships and correspondences with a who’s who of poets, novelists, publishers, activists and artists.

If her extraordinary achievements in life were not enough, her endowment of the Miles Franklin Literary Award on her death ensured she would never be forgotten. In 2013, the Stella Prize for Australian Women’s Writing, named in honour of Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin was awarded for the first time, enhancing her reputation further.

This abridged edition of Jill Rowe’s award-winning biography introduces a new generation of readers to the indominable Miles Franklin – a pioneer of Australian Literature whose legacy founded our most prestigious literary prize.

Prizes won since the original was published in 2008:

Queensland Premier’s Literary Award – 2009

South Australian Prize for Non-Fiction – 2010

Australian Historical Association Magarey Medal for Biography – 2010

Jill Rowe passed away in 2014 and is honoured with the Jill Rowe Prize.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseBorn in 1879, twenty-two years before the states and territories federated as the Commonwealth of Australia, and twenty-three years before suffrage became a reality for many Australian women in 1902, Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin would grow up to become one of Australia’s best-known and one of the most celebrated Australian women writers. She lived a remarkable life across Australia, Britain, Europe and the US, was always busy, and always involved in unions and activism. She was brave, and headstrong, and Jill Roe’s biography captured her willingness to follow her dreams and stand up for what she believed in. Her life was fascinating and diverse, from writing to involvement in war, and in unions and first wave feminism in three countries, working to bring women the vote.

Growing up near Tumut, with a large family, Miles, unlike her sisters, never married and never had children. Instead, she embarked on a career and in activities that were unexpected of women at that time, but that she found herself drawn to, and put her energies into these efforts. A prolific writer whose most famous book remains My Brilliant Career, she wrote another series under a nom de plume that she wouldn’t give anything away about and was able to keep up the charade for many years, up until her death.

Reading this biography, I learnt many things about Miles Franklin that I had not known beyond her impact on the literary world in Australia. She ensured that Australian literature would always be recognised through the Miles Franklin Literary Award, and championed an Australian literary culture, that, perhaps without her passion for it, we may not have around to enjoy so thoroughly today. It was a rich and fascinating life, and one that is far more than just one of Australia’s most celebrated novelists. What she achieved and worked towards in her lifetime was amazing and even in this abridged edition, the essence of her life and Jill Roe’s words still exist wholly and the reader can still enjoy it and gain an understanding of Miles Franklin as a whole person and not just a novelist.

The Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader

book of colpursTitle:  The Book of Colours

Author: Robyn Cadwallader

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins/4th Estate

Published: 1st May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: From Robyn Cadwallader, author of the internationally acclaimed novel The Anchoress, comes a deeply profound and moving novel of the importance of creativity and the power of connection, told through the story of the commissioning of a gorgeously decorated medieval manuscript, a Book of Hours.

London, 1321: In a small shop in Paternoster Row, three people are drawn together around the creation of a magnificent book, an illuminated manuscript of prayers, a book of hours. Even though the commission seems to answer the aspirations of each one of them, their own desires and ambitions threaten its completion. As each struggles to see the book come into being, it will change everything they have understood about their place in the world. In many ways, this is a story about power – it is also a novel about the place of women in the roiling and turbulent world of the early fourteenth century; what power they have, how they wield it, and just how temporary and conditional it is.

Rich, deep, sensuous and full of life, Book of Colours is also, most movingly, a profoundly beautiful story about creativity and connection, and our instinctive need to understand our world and communicate with others through the pages of a book.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn the fourteenth century, bookmaking was an art, a combination of trades, where a scribe or scrivener, would write the manuscript, a limner would illuminate the text, and finally, the book binder, who would bring the parchment pages together within leather bindings.  In 1321, Will Asshe is an apprentice to a small shop that creates illuminated religious texts for wealthy clients, under John, and his wife Gemma, who have their own secrets about who really decorates the manuscripts of the books of hours that Wat Scrivener delivers to them, ordered by noblemen for their families and prayer purposes. Will is an apprentice to John, and he watches Gemma as she paints and writes a book calledThe Art of Illuminationto pass down her son – each chapter begins with a section from the book Gemma is working on. As each person works on their own section in preparation for the book binder, they realise that they each have to find a way to work together and not let their own ideas of power or what the book should be take-over – it is a commission for Lady Mathilda, whose story is woven throughout the book, with her sections in 1322, when she has the book, and is sharing it with her daughters – interspersed with the intriguing and complex process that had delivered the book to her and the risks that those who created it took, with a backdrop of famine, and war that divided loyalties and affected businesses and the dealings they had with Lady Mathilda.

As the mysteries thicken and loyalties are questioned. those working on the book will find themselves questioning what they are doing and why, and what will happen if their secrets are revealed.

The Middle Ages are a period where religion was a strong, often defining force in people’s lives, and where the classes were often more defined, as were expectations of what men and women could do. As in this book, it is the male limners given the credit, though Gemma certainly had an important role to play – it is possible she represents the female limners who were never accepted into the guilds for the profession but nonetheless undertook limner work on valued manuscripts such as a book of hours.

What I enjoyed about this book was the way the book of hours being created for Lady Mathilda reflected the personalities of Will, Wat and Gemma, and John – whose contributions to the book and hushed secrets about its creation and why things happened as they did have to be kept for as long as possible from Southflete, the head of the guild, and the worry of what would happen if he found out. The plot and the characters flowed together effectively and the power that they each exercised – not just over the book and their duties, but over each other, and family.

I also enjoyed the prominence of the role of women – Lady Mathilda as a noblewoman, and Gemma as a wife, mother and limner, who had been taught to paint and read by her father as a child. The power these women have is temporary and can be taken away in an instant, but when they have power, they hold onto it and yield it to garner the best outcomes for themselves, their duties and their families. At the same time, they use the power within the confines of their time and place, and to their advantage, whilst maintaining the subordinate position expected of them by those around them.

Throughout the book, the characters are linked by the creativity they exhibit – through words, through painting and through using the pictures to tell a story if they can’t read, and the marginalia that decorated the book alongside the larger, religious images, and the communication of ideas through an image that to all but those in the know, might not understand the meaning behind it.

Overall, it is a book of creativity and mystery, set against a backdrop of uncertainty for all, and where a manuscript such as the one created in this book had immense value and hid the secrets of its creators and those who ordered it.

An interesting book for those who enjoy stories about power and history, and where the relationships weave in and out of the story, but don’t define every aspect of it.

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Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French (Miss Lily #1)

Miss Lily 1Title: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 27th March 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 524

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A tale of espionage, love and passionate heroism.

Inspired by true events, this is the story of how society’s ‘lovely ladies’ won a war.

Each year at secluded Shillings Hall, in the snow-crisped English countryside, the mysterious Miss Lily draws around her young women selected from Europe’s royal and most influential families. Her girls are taught how to captivate a man – and find a potential husband – at a dinner, in a salon, or at a grouse shoot, and in ways that would surprise outsiders. For in 1914, persuading and charming men is the only true power a woman has.

Sophie Higgs is the daughter of Australia’s king of corned beef and the only ‘colonial’ brought to Shillings Hall. Of all Miss Lily’s lovely ladies, however, she is also the only one who suspects Miss Lily’s true purpose.

As the chaos of war spreads, women across Europe shrug off etiquette. The lovely ladies and their less privileged sisters become the unacknowledged backbone of the war, creating hospitals, canteens and transport systems where bungling officials fail to cope. And when tens of thousands can die in a single day’s battle, Sophie must use the skills Miss Lily taught her to prevent war’s most devastating weapon yet.

But is Miss Lily heroine or traitor? And who, exactly, is she?

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseSophie Higgs lives in Australia at Thuringa, in 1913. Her father runs a corned beef empire, and Australian women have had the vote for eleven years, unlike the women in England, who are still fighting for suffrage. Sophie’s father sends her across the seas to Shillings, where, alongside women from the upper echelons of European society and royalty, Sophie will be taught by the mysterious Miss Lily about society, and how to behave at dinner, how to talk to men and captivate them, how to flatter them, and how to speak about topics that are said to be not right for a woman to know about. But Sophie is a bit of a challenge – the “colonial” who is outspoken and questions everything she is told. Miss Lily takes Sophie under her wing and sets about preparing her for a society life where she can fit in yet still be who she is. As 1914 inches towards war between Germany and England, Sophie must decide who she can trust. Emily, who has always been aloof and focussed? Or Hannelore, a German princess who is friendly but determined that Germany will win any war that breaks out on the continent. As war breaks out, and the Lovely Ladies head home or get married, Sophie is adrift, but determined to make a difference. With the Australians joining the call to duty and heading to Gallipoli, Sophie helps Alison turn her home into a hospital for injured soldiers. As soldiers die, and babies are born, Sophie is drawn further into the war, and across the seas to the battlefields of Ypres and Flanders, where she recounts her tale to a soldier out on the fields, before they head off the battlefields, where the war slowly wraps up, and Sophie finds herself looking to an uncertain future in the inter-war years.

In Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies, Jackie French does not shy away from the horrors of war or the expectations of pre-war Georgian society. The dangers are present, and spoken about, openly and in veiled terms. When Sophie speaks about the threat of war openly. it surprises many, but she finds some men who find relief in not having to curb their chit-chat too much. Like her other novels, Jackie French is telling the stories that have been silence, or relegated to the quieter corners of history, away from the victories of those on the battlefields. whose voices are always heard. The extensive research she has done to uncover these stories is exemplary, and shows just how deep Australian history is, and how much we often miss out on in history lessons.

Sophie’s story ends with a few threads dangling, as a good series does, leaving some mystery for the books to com. The power of friendship felt more important than the romance in this book, though both were present. The romance was woven throughout nicely, so it didn’t overpower what Sophie was trying to do in the war, or her relationship with Alison and the other Lovely Ladies. I had a delightful surprise to meet Midge MacPherson from A Rose for the Anzac Boys again, and I hope she’ll come back in the next book.

The friends that Sophie made throughout the war became important to her, unable to return home because of the threat of enemy attacks, she treasured those she became friends with. As it is a story about war, I felt the deaths and consequences were dealt with realistically and sympathetically, showing the changes in Sophie over the war that altered her perception of herself and the world. I thoroughly enjoyed Sophie’s journey and look forward to it continuing, as I did with Miss Matilda and the Matilda Saga.

An excellent addition to my Jackie French Library, and a great read for fans of the author and historical fiction.

This marks off another square in my book bingo, and will be included in my next post in two weeks time.

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Book Review and Giveaway: The Gum Nut Babies by May Gibbs

GB-CE.pngTitle: Gumnut Babies Centenary Edition

Author: May Gibbs

Genre: Children’s Literature

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 1916, Centenary Edition 2016

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 272

Price: $39.99

Synopsis: Beautiful new Centenary edition to celebrate the publication of May Gibbs’s first book, Gumnut Babies, in 1916. May Gibbs’s marvellous creation – the Gumnut world, with its tiny heroes and heroines and deliciously villainous villains – has fascinated generations of children since its first publication in 1916. Gumnuts at the races, at the ballet, and dancing at balls are some of May’s exquisitely illustrated scenes that have delighted us all. This beautiful new edition has been produced to mark the centenary of Gumnut Babies and contains the stories of Gum-nut BabiesGum-Blossom BabiesFlannel Flowers and Other Bush BabiesBoronia BabiesWattle Babies, plus Nuttybub and Nittersing and Chucklebud and Wunkydoo. This is the perfect companion for The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

~*~

The Gum Nut Babies by May Gibbs are a staple of an Australian child’s literary diet, and they have been for over one hundred years. In this exquisite edition, each poem is reproduced with accompanying original artwork for each type of Gum Nut and Blossom baby, and the stories of Nuttybub and Nittersing, and Chucklebud and Wunkydoo are reproduced, as May Gibbs wrote them, for a new generation. In these stories, Nittersing and Nuttybub go on adventures around the bush, searching for each other, and enlisting the help of fellow animals against the Big Bad Banksia men, who try to destroy the peace of all the other animals and bush babies, whose fear of the Big Bad Banksia men is perhaps more than their fear of Humans, a threat that is heard about but not seen. Instead, they must find away to beat the Big Bad Banksia men, as must Chucklebud and Wunkydoo in their various adventures.

aww2017-badgeEach pair inevitably becomes separated and they battle the perils of the bush to find each other again in two charming stories, told by one of Australia’s most adored authors. At the back, there is a small biography of May Gibbs, a contemporary of Beatrix Potter of the Lakes District, and author of the Peter Rabbit tales. As I have mentioned in the other reviews for these books, so there will be some overlap, May Gibbs is Australia’s Beatrix Potter, both interested in conservation and their natural surrounds at a time of great change and upheaval in their countries, as the city of Sydney, in particular the area of Neutral Bay, grew up around Nutcote, where May Gibbs lived – her answer to Hilltop.

These books are delightful to read at any age, and I hope will continue to charm and capture the imaginations of children for many generations to come. They are the sorts of books that deserve to stay in print. Published during the last years of World War One, at a time when Gum Nut babies were also used as propaganda to show support for the war, and encourage patriotism in a time when it was waning. However, the Gum Nut Babies of these stories do not go to war, but off on grand adventures that children dream of heading off on.

As a child, these would have been amongst the first Australian stories I was exposed to, and have always been something I have loved. May Gibbs has taken the natural environment she knew and loved, and created a magical world that children and adults can escape to, and spend some time away from the trappings of modern life, and learn about various types of native wildlife and plant life in a fun and exciting way.

This post is part of the May Gibbs centenary celebrations, and the May Gibbs brand is running a giveaway for the next two weeks via my blog to win a copy of this book. Enter below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Buy the book here:

https://www.maygibbs.org/

To Love A Sunburnt Country by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #4)

to love a sunburnt country.png

Title: To Love A Sunburnt Country (Matilda Saga #4)

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 1st December 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 466

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: In war-torn Malaya, Nancy dreams of Australia – and a young man called Michael.

The year is 1942 and the world is at war. Nancy Clancy left school at fourteen to spend a year droving, just like her grandfather Clancy of the Overflow. Now sixteen, Nancys family has sent her to Malaya to bring home her sister-in-law Moira and baby nephew Gavin. Yet despite the threat of Japanese invasion, Moira resists, wanting to stay near her husband Ben.

aww2017-badge

But not even Nancy of the Overflow can stop the fall of Singapore and the capture of so many Australian troops. When their ship is bombed, Nancy, Moira and Gavin are reported missing.

Back home at Gibbers Creek, Michael refuses to believe the girl he loves has died. As Darwin, Broome and even Sydney are bombed, Australians must fight to save their country. But as Michael and the families of Gibbers Creek discover, there are many ways to love your country, and many ways to fight for it.

From one of Australias most-admired storytellers comes a gripping and unforgettable novel based on true events and little-known people.

This is a story about ultimate survival and the deepest kinds of love.

A book about a love of country that is heartwarming and heartbreaking, and hard to put down.

~*~

To Love A Sunburnt Country returns to the world of Matilda Thompson and Drinkwater, against the backdrop of World War Two and the impending Japanese threat as the Imperial Japanese Army takes over Thailand, Malaya and the impenetrable Singapore in their attempts to gain a foothold in the Asia Pacific region. Nancy Clancy, Jackie French’s imagined granddaughter of Clancy of the Overflow, is sent to Malaya to escort her sister-in-law, Moira, home before it is too late. Told through the voices of most of the women of Gibbers Creek – Nancy, Matilda, Flinty from The Girl from Snowy River, Blue and Mah from The Road to Gundagai, and a few men – Thomas and Michael Thompson, and Ben, Nancy’s brother, this is the first book in the saga that uses different perspectives for chapters, alongside the usual letters and excerpts from the Gibbers Creek Gazette that inform the history behind the fictional characters and location.

Again, Jackie French has employed strong female and male characters – the voices of war, and the home front. The soldiers, trapped by the enemy in savage prisoner of war camps, whose letters are interspersed and dangle a hook and bait of hope that they’ll all make it out alive, and the civilian prisoners of war in Papua, including Nancy, her sister-in-law Moira, and her nephew Gavin, trapped for years in a camp, starved, and suffering illnesses. It is a world that young Gavin grows up knowing – and a world that Nancy wishes she could have spared him from.

It is Nancy’s prisoner of war experience that is the focus – the silent struggles she goes through that only those around her can understand, and her ability to show some kind of respect to those who keep them prisoner, and earn privileges she uses to gather food, and start to plan an escape in the later years of war. The use of a voice of war, a female civilian prisoner of war, is what gives this novel its strength. Through history, we know much of the soldier prisoner of war experiences, and the experiences of soldiers, and of the home front, the Land Girls, but perhaps not always those left behind to wonder, to hope and to grieve. A silenced voice can be powerful in communicating a message. Jackie French has achieved this in a wonderful way throughout the Matilda Saga.

As a reader, I lived Nancy’s frustration at the stubbornness of Moira not wanting to leave Malaya until the last possible moment, her strength as she got them to the ship, and finally, her pain – physical, mental and emotional – that threatened to destroy her strength and the will to live. The camp Nancy endures is confronting yet I felt this was necessary to encapsulate just how many people were affected by Japanese invasions and not hearing about loved ones, the isolation and fear. It communicated a war story through an often-silenced voice, one not often written about – to give insight into how war can affect everyone.

I’ve said this before – Jackie French’s silenced characters give history depth and an understanding that may have previously been lost or ignored. It breaks down the barrier that what is recorded in the history books is not always the full story – and a little bit more digging can reveal untold stories and interesting facts we may not have known before.

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