- this edition published by hachette Australia 2017
- ISBN 978-0-7336-3854-1
- 209 pages
- source: my local library
Beautifully and powerfully written, this is a look at the darker side of Australia's past - and particularly the status of girls and women in our society - that will stay with you long after you finish reading.
HER name is scarcely known or remembered. All in all, she is worth less than the nine shillings and sixpence counted into her father's hand.
She bides her time. She does her work.
Way back in the corner of her mind is a thought she is almost too frightened to shine a light on: one day she will run away.
A dark and unsettling tale from the turn of the twentieth century by a master of Australian literature.
I should first of all make it clear that this is a historical novel rather than crime fiction, although crimes are committed. My impression is that the intended audience is young adult although the writing style is sophisticated and quite demanding.
The time period is 1913 - early 1920s, the setting rural Victoria. Life is hard and a family with too many children and not enough food sells a three year old girl to the scrap man for nine shillings and sixpence. The scrap man's family consists of Wife, Big Girl and now there is You. The little girl never really knows what her real name is. Years later she sees a boy newly enlisted, who she thinks might be her brother.
Big Girl and You do not go to school - the scrap man hides Big Girl and passes You off as feeble-minded. The scrap man travels the country side hawking items his women folk have made at home out of flour bags, torn sheets, fencing wire, and scrap metal. It depicts an Australia that most of us have never known, of life when the horse was central to transport, of life on the road.
I think this is a novel guaranteed to make an impression on readers, teaching about a period that most would have no idea about. This the way to learn history.
In the final pages are some group reading notes, with discussion questions and suggestions for further reading.
My rating: 4.6
I've also read
4.8, WHISPERING DEATH
4.7, BLOOD MOON
4.2, THE HEAT
4.5, SIGNAL LOSS