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

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Review: Friday Brown

The opening scenes of Friday Brown quickly pull us into the nomadic, sketchy and tragic world of Vivienne Brown, a mother whose past female ancestors appear to have suffered a terrible curse - death by water. And always on a Saturday.

Over campfires and in hotel rooms, always on the run, Vivienne recounts these tales to her young daughter Liliane (nicknamed Friday, in a conscious attempt to stave off the Saturday 'curse'), who believes it has been foretold ... on a Saturday she will drown.

This extraordinary and beautifully-penned tale is a haunting yet utterly 'real' account of Friday's attempt to find home. After her mother's tragic death, Friday is returned to her wealthy grandfather's house where the silence and the ease of living - especially after a childhood on the road - unnerves her.

Life on the street seems a far more attractive option, and Friday soon finds herself leaving her beloved country life behind and heading to the city where she meets a mute boy named Silence.

Silence introduces Friday to his street-child family - a classic cast of memorable and gutsy characters living together in a squat, headed by the intense, Amazonian Arden with the long dread-locked hair and tight hold on the house purse strings.

Friday's relationship with Silence is one of my favourites in many years. The subtly and beauty of their connection is beautifully played-out by the author, as are the prickly yet ultimately supportive relationships between others in the house.

Friday Brown is split into two parts - life in the city and life on the run in the country at Murungal Creek, where Friday's relationship with Arden intensifies and begins to take a serious backward slide. The happenings at Murungal creek are both liberating and haunting, with some scenes appearing as clear in my mind's eye, as the broad expanse of a movie screen.

The poignancy with which Wakefield writes these country scenes, in particular, is enchanting - and what I love most about her work in this book is her ability to draw in the reader - to fall into and understand a world so far and remote from their own.

I was both entranced with and horrified by the life of these street kids, and the challenges that befall sixteen-year-old Friday. I felt equal parts fascination and horror. The storyline pulled me in so deeply, I totally 'got' the allure of life on the street, while at the same time cowering from its life-altering challenges. And sometimes - its tragedy.

And therein, I feel, likes Wakefield's talent - the raw reality she portrays so well via her exquisitely-rendered characters, and her ability to paint the world through entirely different eyes to our own.

If you finish this book wanting, in equal parts, to both rescue those kids and join their team, then Wakefield has certainly achieved what she set out to do in Friday Brown.

Short-listed for Book of the Year - Older Readers category, the Children’s Book Council of Australia, 2013.

Title: Friday Brown
Author: Vikki Wakefield
Publisher: Text Publishing, $19.99 RRP
Publication Date: 28 August 2012
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781921922701
For ages: 15+
Type: YA Fiction

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