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

Sunday 19 July 2020

Review: When the Ground is Hard

In When the Ground is Hard, a novel set in Swaziland, author Malla Nunn draws on her understanding of life there, in the country where she was born and raised.

Adele attends boarding school, paid for by her mostly absent father. He's not married to her mother, who is of Zulu heritage, and lives in a different city with his white family.

Money and propriety talk, and often determines who is friends with whom, and who holds the most influence.

Sixteen-year-old Adele discovers this more than ever when she returns to school.

Having a 'sometimes' father, a part-time father, is not the same as an 'always' father, even if he does pay for everything, and particularly when there's a new girl.

Adele is dumped by those she thought were her friends, and forced into company with Lottie, who has only a mother who cannot pay the school fees in full.

She's not at all thrilled at sharing a room with Lottie, and retreats into the book her father gave her, a copy of Jane Eyre.

As the school term progresses, Adele and Lottie slowly, tentatively get to know each other.

And as unexpected events unfold, Adele and Lottie push the boundaries of the spoken and unspoken rules of their society, and Adele learns about herself, her family, and who her true friends are.

Although the setting is one that might be unfamiliar, this is a story that includes themes like relationships, identity, social class and systems, and race.

When the Ground is Hard will transport you to Swaziland, and it will make you think about those universal themes.

Highly recommended reading.

Shortlisted for the 2020 Children's Book of the Year Award for Older Readers. When the Ground is Hard won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature, and the Josette Frank Award for Children's Literature. It was highly commended in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards.

Title: When the Ground is Hard
Author: Malla Nunn  
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $19.99
Publication Date: June 2019
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760524814
For ages: 12+
Type: Young Adult Fiction