Book Review: The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean

Middle-of-Nowhere_sm

This book has been long listed for the CILIP Carnegie Medal.

This story is set in the Australian outback at the turn of the last century. It focuses on the friendship between grieving 11 year old heroine Comity and Fred, an Aborigine boy. The story mainly takes place on telegraph messaging base where Comity’s Father manages communication of messages via Morse code. Comity’s father is an ‘absent’ father who has slipped into a deep depression following the death of his much loved wife by a snake. The telegraph outpost is staffed by about six male white staff and a small group of Aborigine people. Fred helps to support the grieving Comity and provide her with comfort that her father is unable to do, often enlightening her about Aborigine myths and beliefs. Together they combine both Christian and Aborigine beliefs to manage the grieving process. Into this mix comes an assistant telegraph manager who is a bully and racist, lazy and a trouble maker, with ambitions of taking over management of the outpost. The scene is set for some very tense storytelling highlighting what life was like for Aborigines in colonial Australia. There is also an Asian Muslim community referred to as the Ghans who keep to themselves whilst building a camel transport industry. I was unaware of their presence in Australian history. The story is very good and well written, but unsettling in terms of the casual racism, the parental neglect and the children’s struggles in the unknown outback to save themselves. This is a thought provoking story with opportunities for much discussion.

Sarah

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Filed under Book Review, books, Children's Fiction, reading

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