So of course the one junior book that I hadn’t reviewed carried the day. Can’t blame the CBCA, it is a truly gripping story. So why didn’t I get around to reading it? Here we go:
Time-slip is to me a singularly unappealing genre. I have the same reaction to time-slip (novels that involve a character actually or by imagination travelling through time) as some people do to fantasy. There is something about the fusion of fantasy and historical fiction – two genres which I really like – that makes it the bruised banana that gets left in the bottom of the bowl until it goes black and gooey.
Secondly, when I got my hands on Crow country, I had just finished reading Nanberry: black brother white (still no wiser on the capitalisation of that one) and didn’t really feel like going back-to-back on Australian history. Instead I escaped into the world of the Golden door and what a pity since, not only did that not win, but it wasn’t the most amazing book either.
If I had’ve let myself get more than half a page into Crow country the first time I started reading it – with its gloomy little girl sulking about how miserable she was – I would almost certainly have finished it. The blurb, ‘time-slip’ label and opening paragraphs give away no clues that this is a seriously compelling murder mystery.
Sadie is a young girl who has been forced by her flighty mother to move to the country. Having moved to the country myself a number of times in the past, I can sympathise that it is a conflicting event – not only are you surrounded by the unfamiliar but there are a bunch of things that you miss from the city that you won’t ever find in the country. They are simply not there. On the other hand, you are constantly surrounded by the beauty of the place, have the ability to create new friendships and can begin to form a relationship to the area without the background noise of the big smoke. As such, if you are trying to rub it in to someone (as Sadie is) that you are unequivocally miserable, you will have a bit of a tough time. Enter Sadie’s family history.
Sadie is in the middle of carrying out this psychoterror on her mum when she starts to have a series of turns where she is thrust into the past. In what becomes an excellent allegory for the misappropriation of land from its traditional owners, she learns that her grandfather was involved with a seriously dodgy character. The type of dodgy character that can make you dirty just by associating with him. Money, power and race are all powerful themes in the story that follows – the scars of the actions of the past are carried through to blemish the relationships of present generations.
In this story there are deep questions about reconciliation and, more importantly, there are clear examples of the ways that the deep cuts left by Australia’s history can be mended over time or rended further apart. Constable has put together a beautiful setting, engaging plot and questionable characters to create a novel that is both meaningful and enjoyable.