Review Blog

Jan 22 2009

Tender morsels by Margo Lanagan

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2008. ISBN 9781741147964
(Age 16+) Published as an adult book in Australia, and young adult in the US, this is an engrossing, horrifying tale of Liga, a young girl who is abused by her father and raped by a gang of village youths. Liga lives in a medieval-like community, where there is little help for a young girl and less compassion for one who has a fatherless child. Unable to tolerate her situation any more, she mysteriously manages to retreat to an alternative universe where all the people are kind, and where she brings up her two children, quiet Branza, and inquisitve Urrda. It is a world which lacks conflict and danger. Inevitably the real world intrudes on the trio in the form of a dwarf looking for treasure and boys transformed into bears, and Urrda, longing to explore, makes her way across the border to reality. Eventually all three must adapt to a place where good resides beside evil and kindness beside cruelty.

The first section of this book is harrowing with its descriptions of incest, abortion, gang rape and the effect it has on Liga. I felt unable to continue with it and put it aside for a couple of months until positive discussion on Adbooks, an online US based young adolescent literature group, motivated me to finish it. The second half was less traumatic and very thought provoking. How much can we live in a fantasy world before the real world intrudes? Should we retreat from the real world or live in it fully? How much protection should a parent give a child and when do they allow adolescents to move forward from the safety of the family home? How does a parent help their children when they discover that the real world is often hard and cruel?

Lanagan's writing is superb and she has created unforgettable characters and events. This is not a book for the faint hearted with its violence and dark themes, but it is a memorable coming of age story for a mature and intelligent reader.
Pat Pledger

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