Review Blog

Oct 29 2015

The ratcatcher's daughter by Pamela Rushby

cover image

Angus & Robertson, 2014. ISBN 9780732297138
(Age: Yrs 8-10) Themes include: Black Death plague, girls and education, the class system, government secrets, early Australian history. Set in 1900 this story details the little known events of the Black Plague outbreak in Brisbane. It follows the McKelvie family through the voice of Issy (the second daughter). Issy, as is expected during these times, is forced to leave school and find employment. Her mother finds her a job at the home of the local Funeral Director. She is not happy about leaving school as she has been offered extra tuition by the teacher and believes that she could be very successful if she could continue her education. Their life is turned upside down with the death of a young man next door. The family is thrust into quarantined for several weeks to ensure that they also had not contracted the disease. Issy's father has a pack of rat catching terriers and when he falls ill the job of catching rats falls to Issy who is repulsed by the process.
The story explores in minor detail the life of a young girl during this time, the outbreak of the plague and how the authorities deal with the situation and relationships between the various class structures during the early 1900's.
Wendy Rutten

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