Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category


Greylands Review – Viewpoint Vol 5 No 3

Spring 1997

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Jack’s mother has recently died in circumstances which has left the whole family traumatised, particularly her husband. Ellen, Jack’s younger sister, is in the best condition: she is able to talk about her mother’s death, she recognises her father’s pain, and she knows how to help Jack. Every character in the book pays a price for Jack’s mother’s death, even Jack’s friend Mario, who does not know how to acknowledge it, and whose friendship is threatened by Jack’s father’s distracted behaviour.Jack tells the story with a beginning, rniddle and end, although, as he tells Ellen, life is not like that. While the account of his mother’s death is there, Jack views it through the dark looking glass of another world. There he accompanies Alice, a child carrying a precious bundle, the contents of which are slowly revealed as the story proceeds, and together they flee threafening demons until Alice can flee no more.

Like William Mayne’s A Game of Dark, Greylands is a story within a story, its fantastic overtones redolent with fairy and folk tales, and its surface realism poignant with loss. Carmody has a deep familiarity with the landscape of fantasy and in Greylands she also demonstrates how much she knows about the many strategies the human spirit uses to accommodate the death of a loved one.

For all the complexity of the psychological overtones, Greylands is rich in story and action so that … continue reading


Greylands Review – Magpies Vol 12 No 5

November 1997

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Using symbol and fantasy to explore the inner world of young characters is always a risky business. lf the symbols are too obvious, their potential richness can be overcome by the aridity of allegory in which each symbol has one and only one reference. lsobelle Carmody lessens the risks and allows the symbolism its full richness by using a double narrative: one set in the ‘real’ world, and one set in the ‘greylands’.

Ellen and Jack are having to come to terms with the death of their mother and their father’s withdrawal into grief and Jack is writing a story about that experience. First, he has to impose some order on it: Real life isn’t like a story with a beginning and a middle and an end, says Jack. In writing his story, however, he can make it happen anywhere he likes or – so Ellen says.

The opening chapter is simultaneously a background sketch of life with a mother who had become increasingly disturbed, of the love between Jack and Ellen, and of the change that their mother’s death has wrought on their father, and an example of the way in which we can recall events of months and years in the time it takes to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

And in the bathroom, in the surface of the minor, Jack finds the way into the greylands, and meets the … continue reading


Greyalnds Review – Reading Time Vol 41 No 4

November 1997

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This is a fascinating, unusual and complex book that takes readers on an extraordinary psychological joumey as two children struggle to make sense oftheirmother’s death andtheir father’s despair. It is quite beautifully written, with the intricate weaving of many threads using symbols and motifs from traditional literature, old world beliefs, some post modem explorations of reality and literature and metafictive qualities of stories within stories, which enables it to work at many levels. The first reading simply whets the appetite and creates the need to go back and re-read, because you know there is more to it.

The relationship between Jack and is younger sister, Ellen, is powerful, yet porhayed with a delicate touch. They evolve as multi-faceted, strong yet fragile characters, as Jack’s strategy for dealing with his grief unfolds as he attempts to find solace for his feelings in writing. His storyis entwinedwithinthe other context of the book – his real life situation. The characters of both the mother and the father and their relationship, as seen through the eyes of the children is equally well handled. Each of them, in their own way reaches out and touches the reader.

This is a challenging book for readers from about 12 up, and an outstanding contribution to Australian children’s literature.

Source: Lu Rees Archivecontinue reading