Review Blog

Nov 01 2014

No stars to wish on by Zana Fraillon

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Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781743315149
(Age: 12+) This is a strange and disturbing story. For a number of reasons I hesitate to recommend this book to a wide audience. It is clear that the author wishes to convey to the reader an understanding of the torturous lives led by many 'forgotten Australians', who grew up in Australian orphanages, children's homes, foster care and other institutions. However the grim nature of this story, along with the cruelty described and the futile hopes expressed, make it a book for older readers. The cover could suggest otherwise. Author, Zana Fraillon, has read the personal accounts of many, accessing information from The Care Leavers Australia Network and the Alliance for Forgotten Australians, and these stories are horrifying. Seven-year-old Jack, who is deaf, and his younger sister, are taken from their home to an orphanage, followed later by his older sister, where they are subsequently separated and allocated dormitory beds. Conditions are dreadful but Jack tries to lighten the oppression with jokes and plans to return home. Through Jack's eyes we learn of the strict daily routines, the authoritarian rule and the controlling spirit of the place; there is an air of unreality as we read of Jack's plight, and our discomfort grows as the shock of the situation is realised. Such a story should be told, and Fraillon makes it somewhat illusory in its content and style to soften the impact of the subject matter. Perhaps this technique makes the reality difficult to grasp. Regardless, this book will promote much discussion and soul searching.
Julie Wells

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