'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 7 February 2011

Review: A Waltz for Matilda

Australia, 1894.

A time of drought, of establishing life in this new country, a time of great change.

Not yet one nation, Australia was merely a number of states sitting side by side. It was a land where anything went; men could be forced to work long hours for the bare minimum, children could be taken from school and forced to work, and racism did not exist - people being treated not just differently, but inhumanely, was simply a fact of life.

Moving into the twentieth century was an intriguing time for Australia - a world so different from the one we now live in, and one that Jackie French immerses us in completely.

This is the story of one young girl, Matilda, who is left alone when her mother dies. Instead of giving in to the life everyone thinks she is destined for, a life of virtual slavery and bare survival, she runs away to find the father she has never met.

Her father is not what she expected, certainly not the man of her mother's romantic stories - yet the two find a bond. And, just like that, Matilda is devoted to this wide, brown land.

The years ahead are a combination of survival, love, hardship, heartbreak, and finding herself as a young woman. Matilda, with help from surprising sources, learns to live from the land and become an independent, self-sufficient woman in a time when such a thing was far from the accepted norm. She must learn who to trust and, more importantly, who not to trust, in a world that wants to take advantage of her supposed vulnerable state.

French has used her passion for Australian history to create an authentic world that is so interesting to know more about. More than that - the early days of our country are so important for Australians to learn about. The brutal ways in which people lived, the battles they fought to win the rights we now enjoy, and the shaping of our nation, are things we all need to know.

This is a stunning saga that takes us through a time in a young woman's life when she is learning and yet teaching others around her - as was this country.

A novel that is not to be missed.

Title: A Waltz for Matilda
Author: Jackie French
Publisher: HarperCollins, $19.99
Publication Date: 1 December 2010
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780732290214
For ages: 9 - 14
Type: Middle Fiction, Junior Fiction