Review Blog

May 23 2007

On the Jellico Road by Melina Marchetta

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Bolinda 2006 Read by Rebecca Macauley
Age 15+ The engrossing story told in Marchetta's third novel is well transcribed to the audio cassette, making it accessible to a wider range of readers. This complex tale had me intrigued when reading it because of the many strands needing to be pulled together to make sense of it. The listening of the story I found much more satisfying, as it made me imagine the characters and have something in my head to hang the story onto.

Taylor is a strong willed character whose mother abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road years ago. She is housed now at the school, a strange state boarding school, where many of the students are unusual in some way. Taylor, now a senior, is made house captain and so must attend to the needs of the students in her house. Her uneasy relationship with Hannah, a teacher who lives in her own unfinished house on the campus, is a mixture of love and competition, questioning and sneering.

Into this odd background come the cadets, the boys from the city who camp near the school every year. Taylor is strangely linked with their leader, Jonah, and an antagonistic relationship between the groups heightens the tension as the groups try to come to some truce about where each group can go, called the territory wars.

Taylor wants to find out about her background and so gleans all the bits of information she can. Jellicoe Road is a mystery, an adventure story, full of twists and turns, unusual characters and relationships which will intrigue its readers.

Rebecca Macaulay has a wonderful voice which well suits the range of young people involved in this tale. She takes on the hesitant strength of Taylor; the ambiguity of Hannah; the whispering voice which shows the reader that she is reading the story being written within the novel, that of a group of students who attended Jellico School twenty years before; and the male voices of the cadets, with ease and panache.

As with all audio books, this would be most useful in the classroom when studying the novel. Some students may like to listen in small groups with the book as a guide; some may use it to re-read parts of it within a small group; the teacher may use it to highlight parts of the story in class, under discussion, or simply to replay chapters when the class has finished reading the whole novel. An audio book has a huge range of uses, and can form an integral part of the English program.
Fran Knight

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