Review Blog

May 09 2012

End of the Night Girl by Amy Matthews

cover image

Wakefield Press in 2011. ISBN 978 1862549449.
(Age: Older Adolescents - adults) Highly recommended. Amy Matthews' brilliant novel, End of the Night Girl, is the story of Molly, who works as a waitress, disaffected and lost, interlaced with confrontational language and action. Highly descriptive, Molly's observations draw us into her world and her dawning understanding of what life can be, if we let ourselves imagine the possibilities.
Tearing a scrap of paper from a library book, Molly begins to create a story of the life of a woman named in a list of Holocaust victims. Gienia, a Polish Jew, becomes the focus for Molly, and it is through imagining a story for the young woman that Molly finds an expression for her horror of the persecution of the innocent during the Second World War, and is herself redeemed in the writing. Amy Matthews has grounded the story so deeply in the grossness of life in both worlds, but then shocks us in the story of Gienia's struggling to survive the atrocities of the concentration camps, her descriptions harrowing and horrifying, giving us an insight into how much human beings will sacrifice of their humanity to just stay alive.
Matthews' astute observations of the gritty nature of modern life, in her compassionate portrayal of a young woman slowly realising what she values, and finding a way to live a good life, are enhanced by her protagonist's grasp of the nature of story-telling. It is actually through the interweaving of the two stories that we gain an insight into Matthews' suggestion that it is how stories shape themselves that we understand their meaning. Finally, it is in Molly's construction of a story for Gienia that she reclaims control of her own life.
This wonderfully challenging and brilliant novel is not for young readers, but older adolescents would certainly resonate with this world and the harsh language that saves characters from expressing what they really feel - or mean. I loved this book and would highly recommend it.
Elizabeth Bondar

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