Review Blog

Oct 27 2010

In Lonnie's Shadow by Chrissie Michaels

cover image

Ford Street Publishing, 2010. ISBN 9781876462918, p/b, 334pp.
(For mature readers, 14+ years, Australian author). Highly recommended. Set in the 1860s in inner city Melbourne, this interesting tale is framed around archaeological finds from the present day - 'a retrieval of memories overlaid by time.' An inventory at the beginning of the book lists items found at Casselden Place included in a public exhibition. These items become the chapter headings and the action of the chapter explains how these items have come about. This imaginative use of subjects for a chapter heading by no means takes away from the story, and the reader soon becomes involved in the life and times of young Lonnie McGuinness, caught in slum life, trying to eek out a living with illegal horse racing, yet aspiring to become a jockey at some reputable stables, if he can escape the oppressive backstreets.
Murderers and thieves abound in this seedy world - a little easier for the wily Lonnie to survive but not for young girls, in particularly his dear friend Pearl, who is tossed about in miserable circumstances; everyone is witness to many harsh cruelties.
Michaels writes with a true sense of the times; poverty swamps everyone; homes and streets are awash with rubbish and the accompanying overpowering smells.
Life is hard and it takes fortitude to survive these times. The descriptions of character and place are evocative and are confidently authentic.
Also, it is worth checking the Museum of Victoria's website to get a sense of the times so well described by the author.
Full of tense excitement, with the ongoing adventures of Lonnie as he battles to avoid being branded a criminal, through little fault of his own but of his circumstances, In Lonnie's Shadow is highly recommended.
Julie Wells

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