Review Blog

May 08 2008

Anila's journey by Mary Finn

cover image

Walker Books, 2008
(Age 12+) Anila's Irish father is missing, but believing he will return to her, refuses to go to Madras with her guardians, the Hickeys, who have cared for her since the death of her Bengali mother. By staying in Calcutta her father will find her. But she must make a living and so takes her letter of introduction and her portfolio of bird paintings to Mr Walker at the Asiatick Society headquarters, for he has advertised for a draughtsman to accompany him on a trip along the Ganges.

The sights, sounds and smells of India during the first days of the nineteenth century are recalled in detail in this surprising book. Alternate chapters show Anila's early years, and present events as she journeys down the Ganges. There is a mystery as well as a loved childhood to consider, a secretive man on board the boat and a child found tied up in a courtyard. Many times I was reminded of Kipling's Kim, as I languidly floated along the river with this odd assortment of people, looking at India through the eyes of a young girl with an Irish father and Bengali mother, as well as those of an Englishman disenchanted with the results of colonisation.

A delightful book, with an engaging story and wonderfully unusual and diverse characters, this novel will suit the more discriminating reader from upper primary to adult, who will revel in the most delicious of writing.
Fran Knight

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