Review Blog

Jul 25 2008

Orphans of the Queen by Ruth Starke

cover image

[sound recording] Read by Caroline Lee. Louis Braille Audio, 2004 (6 hrs 15 mins)
ISBN 07320291395 CDs $68
Ruth Starke is well known for her evocative stories about migrants coming to Australia. Each of her novels tells the story of one family and its struggle to find a place in a new city and country. In her recent Noodle Pie, we read of Andy and his Vietnamese father returning for the first time to Hanoi to meet the family. In the award winning NIPS XI, we see a group of students from a variety of backgrounds trying to play cricket in an attempt to be Australian, and in this book, we read of a family of two children, brought to Australia from England, where they lived in an orphanage. Separated at Perth, Hilly arrives at the orphanage in Adelaide, where she is treated poorly, and in an attempt to reunite her little family, writes to the Queen, about to visit Australia in 1954, for help.

Based on the stories about Adelaide's Goodwood Orphanage, where life was often harsh and allied to the little known tales of orphan children sent out to Commonwealth countries as immigrants, Starke's story is monumental in exposing the lives of some of these children, and their treatment once they arrived in Australia. Their powerlessness is overwhelming, as Hilly tries to find her brother, Egg, in Perth. Students will love the story of the children on the ship coming to Australia, as it goes through the Mediterranean Sea, then through the Suez Canal, and across the Indian Ocean, and they have a carefree time before they arrive. But this soon changes.

This reading by Caroline Lee is wonderful. She speaks calmly and deliberately, portraying the two main characters, Hilly and Egg with a different nuance in her voice, which delineates them readily for the reader. The many accents of the children and the passengers on the ship are exceptionally well realised, and Lee's voice readily evokes an image of the character in the mind of the listener. It is an emotive reading which will enthuse its listeners.
Fran Knight

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