Mrs Arnold’s daughter Vicki has died. The sight of her daughter’s horse named Mrs Whitlam - Maggie for short - is unbearable. The grieving mother wants it gone. She chooses to give the horse, tack, and riding clothes to the horse-loving Marnie, an Aboriginal girl who does odd jobs at the Pony Club.
All Marnie’s dreams have come true. As soon as they meet, girl and horse fall in love.
The bond between Marnie and Maggie strengthens despite taunts about being a black girl owning a dead girl’s horse and clothing. That the horse is part Clydesdale, is large with hairy hooves and appears clumsy, adds fuel to the ridicule meted out.
Marnie brushes these comments away. Nothing can dampen her joy at owning Maggie.
Maggie may appear clumsy, but she proves heroic when she displays intuition and strength during a shocking accident that puts two lives in danger.
This is a simple but well-constructed story. Bruce Pascoe has inherited a natural storyteller’s gift. A simple sentence creates a whole picture. A word here, another there, becomes a comprehensive theme or scene. The brief dialogue of the minor cast is cleverly delivered, and reveals a great deal of information about their circumstances and character.
Strong themes of place, family and country pulse through the book. Marnie’s narrative voice is smooth and natural on the page. There’s not one affected word to be found throughout the prose. It’s a highly enjoyable adventure ideal for middle readers.
Title: Mrs Whitlam
Author: Bruce Pascoe
Publisher: Magabala Books $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: June 2016
For ages: 8+
Type: Middle Fiction