Review Blog

Mar 21 2013

A Ring Through Time by Felicity Pulman

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HarperCollins, 2013. ISBN  9780 7322 9488 5.
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Historical. Norfolk Island. Convicts. Accompanying her family to Norfolk Island, where her father has taken the position as doctor, sees Alle relieved to leave Sydney and the betrayal by her supposed boyfriend, Jason. But meeting new friends she finds that her surname attracts attention, so much so that one of her new friends advises her not to let on to too many people. She has been told that her forebear was a kind and diligent superintendent on the island in convict times, but she learns that the people here have a different opinion entirely. One of the boys in her class is a descendant of one of the O'Reilly boys, brutally slain by the commandant, Bennett.
So she begins to investigate for herself, making use of a friend back in Sydney who loves research and is a computer whiz, as well as using the local historical sources and people in the know.
What she finds scares her. The story her family has been told is a vastly different one that comes to light, and in babysitting the current administrator's children, she sees the ghost that people have warned her about, the daughter of her forebear, Alice Bennett.
It is her story that Alle pursues, adding to the small amount of information she can find on the island, the daughter having been almost erased from any written history. In the background is always the brutality of the place and that of John Bennett, sent to replace a more humane administrator, Maconochie, a real life person who tried to bring some justice to the treatment of the convicts when he was there between 1840 and 1844.
Pullman's story grabs the reader, insisting that they see the story from a variety of sources, impelling us to make a stand about who we believe, encouraging our point of view to shift as does that of Alle.  This is a gripping story, made more so by its relationship with Australia's early history, introducing the astute reader to a part of our history often neglected.  
Fran Knight

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