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

Sunday 25 March 2018

Review: Libby In The Middle

Bella, Libby and Grace are sisters. Their family moves to live closer to dad’s only sibling, rich Aunt Thecla. He hopes that she will be generous enough to pay for the girl’s’ education as they are struggling to make ends meet. Bella leaves behind her boyfriend Sam and her happy disposition. She becomes secretive; full of untruths and rebellious anger and spite. Grace is six and mommy’s girl, while Libby, the one with the most logic, is caught in the middle of it all.

It turns out that life in a small community isn’t exactly what they all expected. Although Mum is happy at her new dentist practice, dad seems uncomfortable returning to his past, which he left under a cloak of mystery and hasn’t spoken about to his children.

Secrets always have a way of trickling out – particularly in small communities. As the three curious girls try to adjust to their new life, they also lose no time in investigating snippets of conversations, and words dropped accidently on purpose around town, regarding their father’s younger years. With knowledge, questions arise. Answers are needed. The grey areas of dad’s life which were like a permanent mist, slowly clear, to reveal an understanding of the choices he made, and bring the family closer together.

I particularly love the building of Aunt Thecla’s place in the story. The slow reveals show what she was before; the why and who of her past, and how other people’s actions changed the course of her life to mould her into all that she became.

She is a character full of wisdom and generosity of heart. Information about her closely guarded life is uncovered when unexpected happenings and appearances call back time, forcing buried issues to be confronted.

Many stories are played out in this absorbing and multi-layered novel about families, the secrets people keep, and the reasons and lengths we all go to in order to hide things we fear from those we love.

Themes of bullying and its effects on young people flow through the novel. How strongly the past is always anchored to the future is a pivotal point, and subtly addressed, is how necessary it is at times for children to share their parents’ past.

With brilliant prose and fantastic characters, Gwyneth Rees, a former doctor who worked with children and teenagers, writes intimately about adolescent angst. Her writing deserves to be explored further.

Title: Libby in the Middle
Author: Gwyneth Rees
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: January 2018, $12.99
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781408852774
For ages: 10+
Type: Middle Fiction