Review Blog

Nov 25 2013

The first week by Margaret Merrilees

cover image

Wakefield Press, 2013. ISBN 9781743052471.
(Age: Senior secondary) Marian Anditon lives on a farm in the south of Western Australia, her husband Mac died ten years ago and now her son Brian and his family run the farm. Her second son Charlie dropped out of university in Perth and Marian's world is shattered when she gets a call to say he is in trouble. Gradually it is revealed that he has shot two people and the rest of the book works through the shock, grief and blame that radiated from that act. Charlie's tutor at university shows Marian a paper he wrote entitled White Culpability for Damage to the Land and its Indigenous People with a note saying what was needed was 'direct action' but everyone she talks to seems to blame themselves and we are not given any insight into his motivation and the soundness of his mind is in question. So we are left with every detail of Marian's journey to Perth and the stages of her grief for lost lives, analysing blame, confusion and responsibility against a backdrop of the natural environment. Just about every white Australian moral and environmental issue is touched on; war; land clearance; aboriginal rights; guns; capital punishment; live sheep exports; racism; prejudice, the list goes on but as Charlie's tutor says 'we do a lot of talking here about what's wrong with the world' and when Marian goes back to the farm there is no doubt that she has questioned their lives but there don't seem to be any answers.
A very different book to We need to Talk about Kevin but it could be a connected text for senior secondary.
Sue Speck

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