Review Blog

Jul 27 2012

Nellie's quest by Penny Matthews

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Our Australian Girl series. Penguin, 2012. ISBN 978 0 14 330625 2
(Ages: 9+) Highly recommended. With both girls out of work, Nellie and Mary walk to the Servants' Depot on North Terrace in Adelaide in search of employment. But they find many girls willing to take the little work offered. When Mary collapses she is taken to the hospital where conditions are putrid, but hearing that the girl has consumption and cannot leave the place, Nellie resolves to try and find her former employer, Mrs Thompson, who has moved to the Burra with her family.
Nellie a lone girl with little money finds friends along the way. The Chinese man Li is also going to the Burra and accompanies her on the coach ride. But once there she can find little trace of the family she seeks, and so decides to get back to Adelaide to help Mary recover.
Brimful of fascinating background details of early South Australia, the story describes the monster mine at the Burra employing miners from Cornwall and Wales, many living in the Burra Creek, digging a home for themselves and their families, the bullockies, the destitution hospital in Adelaide, the servants depots, the fate of young girls brought from halfway round the world to become servants in the new colony, only to find little work is available. All of this is told succinctly against the engaging story of Nellie and her friend Mary, which will immediately engage the attention of the readers.
This is the third in the series about Irish girl, Nellie, who came to Adelaide to find work after the devastation in Ireland, and is one of the excellent Our Australian Girl series, showing girls in different times in our history, introducing a younger audience to facets of children's lives in the past.
Fran Knight

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