Review Blog

Jun 03 2009

The night they stormed Eureka by Jackie French

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HarperCollins, 2009. ISBN 978073228548.
(Ages 10+) Highly Recommended. An historical novel by Jackie French is at once informative, entertaining and enlightening. The readers learn a great deal about the subject, without spending hours pouring over history texts, they imbibe a wonderful tale, well told, and at the end of the book, know that they have been reading something by an accomplished writer, one who makes the story flow along, effortlessly taking the reader with it.
Sam, a young girl on the run form her abusive family, spends the night huddled next to a gravestone with the names Puddleham. In the morning, she is woken by someone calling a name, Lucy, and she finds she has slipped in time to the mid nineteenth century. Her protectors, Mr and Mrs Puddleham, are walking back to their camp, where they supply the miners with meals, and Sam is readily taken as their son and helps them with their work. But it is 1854, and Sam knows from her history books, that a stockade is about to be built, and many miners slaughtered by the police and troops for daring question their lot in life, the hated miners license and their lack of voting rights.
The background detail of this momentous time in Australia's history is given ingeniously by French as the reader follows Sam's life on the goldfields. Through her twenty first century eyes we see the gulf between miners and police, the rich and poor, the powerful and those without power. Because she asks questions, we hear of the miners' lives first hand, and empathise with Sam as she tries to keep her adopted family out of harm's way, all the while, marveling at the difference between this family and that of her own back home. She returns to the twenty first century a wiser young girl, able to see how she can make changes in her own life. As with all of French's books, there is an ample appendix giving more information as well as some of the recipes alluded to in the story.
Fran Knight

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