Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99
I absolutely love Pam’s writing, and her historical fiction is especially satisfying in my eyes, particularly when she incorporates history of Brisbane and Australia. I moved to Queensland in 1985 and while that’s a long time ago, and I’ve been teaching here since 1993, there is still so much history of which I am aware so I always delight in finding out more.
Yes I did know about internment during both wars and I also knew that in many instances it was completely irrational, unjust and callous. I certainly didn’t realise that (in this instance) during the First World War so-called ‘aliens’ – Germans in whatever guise the Australian government determined – from outside Australia, but in British territories e.g. Singapore were not only interned but then subsequently sent to Australian camps for whatever duration. What the actual ???? I mean, I’ve just been reading commentaries on the dangers of us reading books with a contemporary lens and being judgemental but realistically, isn’t it somewhat ludicrous that someone born in Australia but with German (as it were) grandparents could be considered ‘foreign’ and ‘dangerous’ or alternately, a German national living in Singapore long-term should be sent to Australia? Riddikulus!
Ok rant aside, I absolutely loved this one. I opened my weekly parcels this morning (after a fraught first week with students at the new school) to discover this beauty and took it to the hair salon this arvo – where I just devoured it!
Gretta has lived in Singapore since she was little in an enviable existence with a big house, servants, the best of everything in fact. When the British soldiers arrive and take control of all foreign influence in Singapore, Gretta and her parents are interned and subsequently sent to Australia.
Tilly has grown up in Brisbane with her younger brother, Australian mum and German father, living over their bakery in Red Hill. When Tilly’s dad is interned – although an Australian citizen, naturalised after many years- her mum’s mental health suffers, and Tilly and her brother Franz need all their ingenuity to make things work, particularly when their mum insists on ‘following’ her husband to the little town of Bornabba in rural NSW.
As you can predict now, Gretta and Tilly end up living next door to each other and despite a rocky start become fast friends.
This fascinating narrative unravels real life accounts, actual events, the drama and danger of the Spanish Flu pandemic that followed the Armistice, the grief, injustice, determination, and optimism in the turmoil of the Great War. I read with astonishment that Tilly’s family walked from Red Hill to the Botanic Gardens !! – and the descriptions of the appearance of both Sydney and Brisbane. Of course I realise both cities looked vastly different in 1916 but it is still hard to visualise (goes to look up distance between Red Hill and Brisbane Botanic Gardens). I was also aghast at the Lutheran pastor (3rd generation) who was incarcerated. *shakes head*
Particularly if your school does ‘read around your topic’ but most certainly to recommend to your readers of historical fiction, those studying the Great War, or sensitive topics such as racism, propaganda and of course pandemics – and just for a cracking good read – I highly recommend this for readers from around Year 6 upwards.