Review Blog

May 20 2014

The Sequin Star by Belinda Murrell

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Random House, 2014. ISBN 9780857982056.
As with her other time-slip novels, Belinda Murrell has used a piece of jewellery as a portal for a visit to history. This time it is a brooch which modern-day Claire finds amongst her grandmother's possessions and which, because of an accident, propels her backwards to the Sydney of 1932. Rescued and cared for by two of the performers of Sterling Brothers Circus, Claire is bewildered by life in those times particularly as she sees both sides of it - the poverty and despair of the Depression as families are evicted and forced to live in the 'susso' camps existing on a government handout that covers some food but not rent as well as the riches and extravagances of those who are more fortunate. She is exposed to the polarity caused by Premier Jack Lang whose mission is to help the unemployed and their families and those of the New Guard who view him as a communist and want New South Wales to return to the days of the haves and the have-nots where they can maintain their self-perceived superiority.
Through a wonderful tale of intrigue and mystery, once again Ms Murrell has managed to captivate and educate at the same time for there are many avenues of life in those times ready for exploration from the role of animals in the circus to the causes of the Depression and life at the time through to Australia's emergence as very much an egalitarian society and whether this still exists. There might even be an investigation into parallels between the politics of then and now and whether we are moving back to a more divisive and divided nation. Teachers' notes and activities to support the story and its themes are available and include suggestions for other reading as well as websites that might be of use.
The Sequin Star is another jewel in Ms Murrell's box that not only tantalises the imagination but also offers insight into a way of life that our students' great-grandparents would have known well.
Barbara Braxton

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