22 May 2013

From the POV of a twelve year old

It occurred to me as I was reading this week that I have recently reviewed three books written from the point of view of a twelve year old girl.

In two of them the girl sees herself as a sort of detective, but that is really where any similarity stops. All of them are reminders that children are great observers who don't always interpret what they see in the same way as an adult. At this age too, other things are happening in their lives, their bodies are at times giving rather confusing signals, but they have a great curiosity about their place in the world.

I think it takes a special writing skill to write convincingly from the point of view of a child, especially  one on the cusp of adolescence, and each of these authors does it very well. And yet the books are not really meant for teenage readers. It is assumed that the reader is an adult who will be able to fill in the blanks and see a little further than the protagonist. I point out two that two of the authors are female, one male - I think there is another skill we should recognise in the writing of Alan Bradley.

The most recent of the books is THE EARTH HUMS IN B FLAT by Mari Strachan.

Synopsis (Text Publishing)

Up here, far away from everybody, the night is peaceful; there’s no sound except the hum of the Earth. At school, when I sang the note to Mr Hughes he said it was B flat.

Gwenni Morgan can fly in her sleep—that’s how she sees what’s going on in the village, and how she tries to make some sense of her family and her world. But Gwenni’s mother isn’t too keen on her daughter’s imaginative ways; she doesn’t want anyone thinking her odd.

When Ifan Evans goes missing, Gwenni tries to help find him, much to her mother’s distress. And as she begins to put the pieces together, a terrible truth is revealed.

Set in a small Welsh village in the 1950s, The Earth Hums in B Flat is a story of dark family secrets. It’s filled with wonderful characters and written with insight and sparkling tenderness.

See my review

And then on the weekend I finished SUFFICIENT GRACE by Australian author Amy Espeseth.

Synopsis (from the publisher, Scribe Publications, Melbourne)

Ruth and her cousin Naomi live in rural Wisconsin, part of an isolated religious community. The girls’ lives are ruled by the rhythms of nature — the harsh winters, the hunting seasons, the harvesting of crops — and by their families’ beliefs. Beneath the surface of this closed, frozen world, hidden dangers lurk.

Then Ruth learns that Naomi harbours a terrible secret. She searches for solace in the mysteries of the natural world: broken fawns, migrating birds, and the strange fish deep beneath the ice. Can the girls’ prayers for deliverance be answered?

Sufficient Grace is a story of lost innocence and the unfailing bond between two young women. It is at once devastating and beautiful, and ultimately transcendent.

See my review

The third book is a more traditional crime fiction novel, the latest in Alan Bradley's Flavia De Luce series, SPEAKING FROM AMONG THE BONES. I read this one a few months back.

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they're found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sisters' diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies.

Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of St. Tancred's death, the English hamlet of Bishop's Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint's tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked.

Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there's never such thing as an open-and-shut case.

See my reviews:


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kerrie - That's a very well-taken point. On the one hand, children do not, as you say, see the world the way adults do. There are things they don't necessarily understand and things they don't interpret as they will when they're older. On the other hand they are keen observers, they can be very intelligent and sometimes quite clear-eyed, as the saying goes. It's not easy to write such characters well, but they can be interesting.


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