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

Wednesday 7 July 2021

Review: Echo in the Memory

What an enjoyable read.

This is a very original story, told in two separate viewpoints, both teenage boys called William, separated by 200 years of history.

The contemporary boy, Will Richards is a fifteen-year-old boy just trying to do his best in the face of neglect. 

He lives with his sister and mother, but his mum sometimes locks herself up in her room for days on end, leaving Will to care for himself and his sister Rosie.

His dad has other priorities. 

Nunn handles the next part of this delicately – Will’s mother is hospitalised, but the reader is not explicitly told why. 
A mature reader might be able to join the dots and surmise that there was self-harm involved, but the nature of the mother’s issues remains understated.

The outcome is that Will and Rosie live with their estranged grandparents – on a property in a remote and dreary part of rural New South Wales.

Historical William is also a teenager, living hand-to-mouth in nineteenth century London and transported to NSW for theft. He is also quite ambitious. Having heard that some convicts had bettered themselves once they had been freed, he is determined that he should one day become a person of importance in the colony. 

He is sent to labour on a property in remote NSW. But as the days draw into months, Will learns that convicts’ lives are expendable in this harsh environment.

It becomes obvious that although the two Williams are separated by two centuries, they share a link. Will Richards has memories about events on his grandparents’ property that he should know nothing about. Nunn weaves the clues between the two narratives. 

A hint of Will’s preternatural knowledge of historical events is later elaborated upon in convict Will’s thread. The two stories unfold in parallel, and the reader is drawn into the mystery and its tragic climax.

I like that although this is a type of ghost story, it eschews any of the tropes associated with ghosts. No jump scares, no spooky figures, no sudden drops in temperature. Just odd memories, as if the historical William is whispering in contemporary Will’s ear.

The writing is simply beautiful and the characters come alive in clear detail.

My only criticism is that whilst Nunn included some very confronting and historically accurate details of a massacre of First Nations people, there were no First Nations people in the contemporary thread to underscore the theme of the ongoing impact of historical tragedies, or to serve as a stark reminder of the reality of intergenerational trauma, which Nunn poignantly illustrates in his depiction of the relationship between Will and his grandfather. A missed opportunity.

Teachers’ notes are available.

And you could win a copy of this marvelous book - details to be announced shortly.

Title: Echo in the memory

Author: Cameron Nunn
Publisher: Walker, $ 19.99
Publication Date: 2 June 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760653088
For ages: 13+
Type: Young Adult Fiction