SOME YEARS AGO I was asked in an interview if I had any particular ambition, and I remember answering that I would like to write a classic fantasy for ten to twelve year olds: the sort of book I loved reading as a child, but somehow brought forward to a contemporary Australian setting. ‘Well, why don’t you?’ said the interviewer. If only it were that easy!
There’s no doubt writing fantasy for Australian children is full of challenges and difficulties. For a start where do you set the story, when most of the classics of the genre are set in the Northern Hemisphere, and effortlessly draw on the myths, fairy tales and children’s culture of their native lands? In her earlier novel, CBC Book of the Year winner The Gathering, Isobelle Carmody managed to evoke a powerful sense of place by confining her plot to the primary world. In her new novel for young readers, Greylands, she deals with the challenge in a different way, one that acknowledges its debt to the past, with many references to Lewis Carroll and Hans Christian Andersen and several reworked fairy ‘stories within the story’.
The primary world is the everyday world of school, home, neighbours, where Jack and his younger sister Ellen struggle to survive emotionally after the death of their … continue reading