Review Blog

Feb 06 2017

The navy-blue suitcase: Curious tales from a travelling life by Sally Van Gent

cover image

Wakefield Press, 2016. ISBN 9781743054062
(Age: 15+) Biography. Travel. Childhood. The navy-blue suitcase begins with a mystery - the photograph hidden in Sally's mother's suitcase under the bed. However don't expect the book to be an unwinding of family secrets with clues leading to a final revelation; this is not that kind of book. It is more a collection of vignettes from the author's life - beginning with scenes of children playing in the fields of England and moving to the varied landscapes of the Middle East, to Russia, and to Australia. The stories create pictures of different places, different people encountered along the way. If one was to search for a theme, perhaps it would be the recurring kindness of strangers even in the strangest of circumstances.
Sally shows herself to be a strong determined person, ready to explore the challenges of life, in sharp contrast to her mother, who is forever trapped by the manipulations of her husband, continually exploiting her gullibility. Sally however manages to break free and make her own life, following her own adventures, which we as readers enjoy along with her. However, in the end, I did find myself feeling a little let down that we never do find out the secret of the old photograph.
Nevertheless it is enjoyable reading and there are fine pencil drawings illustrating scenes throughout the book, adding to the old world charm.
Helen Eddy

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