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- author Jackie French

Saturday 29 September 2012

Review: Greylands

Loss and grief during childhood is always difficult; at times unbearable. The way children cope with the pain associated with loss is the theme of Isobelle Carmody’s Greylands. The book was first published in 1997. In this new, revised edition, there is an excellent and moving Foreword that opens the reader to the contents of the book.

The story is presented peripherally as a fable, with its messages presented from the centre out. It’s also a gentle and enquiring story of love and its loss, and the consequences of that loss on those left behind.

Teenager Jack and his younger sister Ellen are trying to cope with the tragic death of their mother. They don’t have the one loss. They also suffer the loss of attention and support expected from their father who has distanced himself from them, shrinking further and further into his own silent grief.

Jack escapes to the ‘wild places’ of an imaginary world that that is made up of the fairytales and stories his mother used to tell them and read. He enters this world through his bathroom mirror and in his dreams. There are wolves and other wild animals; threats, fear, and many grey areas that he can’t make sense of. All these are symbols of Jack’s fear and grief. It is also ‘some fear of going back’ that he has ‘hidden even from himself’; back to the reason for his mother’s death that he dare not face.

This struggle and questioning continues until Jack can understand fully, the cause of his mother’s death, and come to realise that love remains, even beyond death.

Carmody is courageous and astute when dealing with children’s issues. She has used a lot of symbolism and metaphor to represent the escape routes from grief that children take, and how they can become consumed by the unexplained. Both her main characters are interesting, intelligent and introspective. The whole story is built and built upon in preparation for the last explosive revelation. This is a superlative novel not to be missed.

- this review by Anastasia Gonis

Title: Greylands
Author: Isobelle Carmody
Publisher: Ford Street Publishing, $18.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1 October 2012
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781921665677
For ages: 12+
Type: Older Junior Fiction, Young Adult