Review Blog

Sep 04 2009

Island girl by Lolo Houbein

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Hybrid Publishers, 2009. ISBN 9781876462888.
(Age 13+) Set on a remote island off the South Australian coast, Island girl takes the reader on a tour of what it is like to live in a small farming community and the challenges that face young people as they look to their futures. Bianka has just left school, and undecided about where her future lies, stays at home on the family farm to help her mother who is recovering from breast cancer. As Bianka ponders what she will do with her life, she uncovers a mystery about Flora, her great grandmother, a brilliant artist who left the island in mysterious circumstances.The discovery of Flora's diary will lead Bianka to do much thinking about the directions that a young woman can take.
Houbein paints a warm picture of family life, where each member is valued for their different talents, and hard work is appreciated. The gossip that goes on in small communities, as well as the secrets that families often hide, are examined in depth. The theme of self sufficiency is also strong. Bianka grows vegetables; collects seed from the bush and can build mud brick houses.
Set in the first person and narrated by Bianka, the language often seems old fashioned - she calls a boy that she likes her 'romantic friend' - but the vivid descriptions paint a memorable picture of the beautiful island with its sandy beaches and seal communities. I found this book a refreshing change to the many books written by US authors in the first person. Bianka is not rich or selfish. She is a considerate person who is interested in the environment and who analyses what she really wants to do with her life on her path to independence.
The romance is gentle and caring. After encounters with Simon, a summer visitor to the farm, and Patrick, an island boy who prowls around, Bianka discovers what she wants in a relationship.
A thought provoking book, Island girl will have readers thinking about self sufficiency, meaningful relationships and life in remote areas.
Pat Pledger

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