Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s
Once again Belinda Murrell has set her readers’ feet upon a path to the past with an ease that is breathtaking.
When Marli’s mother has to go overseas for work for several months, the teenager is sent to stay with her estranged father in Melbourne, doing so with the scowling bad grace that only an adolescent can summon. While all her friends will be back in Brisbane enjoying themselves for the holidays, Marli knows only too well that her workaholic father will leave her to moulder in boredom and loneliness.
Only one bright spot lightens her mood. She is reunited with her grandfather Didi who has some intriguing news. The old mansion owned by Marli’s ancestors, which has been leased to the government for ninety years is to come back into their possession. Derelict and abandoned, the old house seems destined for demolition.
Marli is determined to find out more about the mysterious mansion and its secrets especially after Didi handing over some artefacts which once belonged to his mother, Violet. Although a precious sapphire ring has not turned up in these, the other items are enough to spur Marli on in her journey of discovery.
Sneaking into the grounds of the mansion through a neighbouring property, Marli is surprised by Luca, a young man from the Italian family of neighbours who also has a connection to the old place.
As two parallel stories unfold, the reader shares in Violet’s life in the 1920s: the loss of her two brothers in the Great War, then her mother’s death, the emotional distance of her father and most interestingly the painful history of the chauffeur Nikolai, a Russian émigré whose family has escaped the Bolshevik revolution as well as following the progress of Marli’s Melbourne sojourn and her growing reconciliation with her father.
As usual, Belinda has woven a story of complete authenticity and within her fiction has much for us to learn about a period of time and events in Australia that are not widely known.
It is fascinating and engaging and will undoubtedly be as hugely popular as the other titles in this wonderful ‘time slip’ series. I have already had the first borrower snatch it up quickly five minutes after it went on our ‘new books’ display. I think that probably says it all!
Highly recommended for girls in Year 5 upwards.