Review Blog

Apr 28 2014

Racing the moon by Michelle Morgan

cover image

Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781743316351.
(Age: Young adult) Michelle Morgan uses the voice of a pre-teen lad in Glebe during the 1930's for her Racing the Moon narrator. She captures the 'man of few words' ethic of the time because the protagonists' voice is very authentic. Despite the larrikin exterior, his inner character is also indicative of many past heroes of childrens' fiction.
Joe is a product of his upbringing. At a time when the penchant of fathers is to beat their male issue, browbeat their spouses and indulge in a little illegal activity, Joe and his father have a seemingly ambivalent relationship. Morgan's talent is for juxtaposing the an idyllic Australian past with the kinds of dark secrets that are common to human nature across all eras. Thus Joe can be thinking of billy cart racing one minute and discovering his dad in bed with a strange woman the next.
The friction between father and son is timeless and proves the catalyst for Joe to be shipped off to boarding school across the harbour. When confronted by a paedophile in a position of religious and educational authority, it is Joe who is not believed and shipped off to a reformatory school in the country.
Reconciliation for the victims of the sexual abuse of yesteryear is very topical at the moment. However, we do not see Joe as a molested victim because he manages to stand up for himself. His punishment is however harsh, futile and unjust giving us an understanding of insurmountable power relationships which would have been far more devastating for a less assertive child.
Can Joe's rite of passage be complete at the farm school when faced with a bully of a different sort? Can Joe's father appreciate the young man Joe has become?
Don't be put off by the naive cover, Racing the Moon is confronting Young Adult fiction and readers of any age will be captivated by Joe, who wins our admiration as a stoic and heroic figure.
Deb Robins

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