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

Tuesday 2 February 2021

Review: Girl of the Southern Sea

This beautifully structured and moving novel is a blend of powerful emotions, that include love, loss and grief, the power of belief in yourself, and rich in folk tales.

Nia lives in the slums of Indonesia along the train tracks. She has just finished middle school. A promising student, her dreams of continuing to High School and becoming a writer, have been wrenched from her by her Bapak – father, who drinks away the money they make from the family food cart. 

His excuse is his grief at the death of his beautiful wife during the birth of their second child, Rudi, now five years old.

Nia cares for Rudi. Her fried bananas at the market place are the most popular food. She lives with hope that Bapak will reform and save money for her education.

She has filled countless notebooks with her favourite stories about Dewi Kadita, the Sea Queen, that her mother frequently spoke of.

An accident at the market place leaves Bapak burnt and in jail. Nia nurses him while alone, runs the food cart to make a living.

When she is involved in a bus accident and is the only passenger to escape unscathed, the people of the area begin to believe she has been blessed with good -luck magic.

Her sales increase even when she doubles the price of her fritters. Nia is determined her father will not get a penny of the money.

But she is a female child with a child to look after. Vulnerable and alone after her father runs off to an unknown place, she is open to the many dangers that face young girls in the slums. After her money is stolen and she is told she has been promised in marriage by her father to a rich man, she sets out to find him to undo his promise.

What she discovers is beyond belief, but serves to reveal, her strength of character, and the power of the dreams she clings to for herself.

Built into the layered story are mesmerising Javanese folktales, traditions and customs. It reveals how superstition can rule and change the course of people’s lives, and how power is abused and fuelled by the persistent bribery that keeps people poor. 

Title: Girl of the Southern Sea
Author: Michelle Kadarusman
Publisher: UQP, $16.99
Publication Date: 2 February 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 97807022629371
For ages: 11+
Type: Junior Fiction