Review Blog

Jan 08 2016

Clancy of the Undertow by Christopher Currie

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Text, 2015. ISBN 9781925240405
(Age: 14+) Recommended. This book is an easy read about Clancy who is 16, coming to terms with her sexuality, and living in a country town. It is the beginning of the summer holidays and Clancy, despite having a part time job, has time on her hands. The Australian country town and countryside is painted delicately, giving the reader a genuine feeling of being there.
The story fleshes out a typical Australian family, complete with inappropriate behaviours, arguments and lots of love. After a tragedy involving Dad, the Underhill family members cope in the best way they know how while grappling with the judgmental 'bogans' in the small town community who attempt to ostracise the family. Clancy's efforts to connect with her Dad are tender and evocative of the Australian way: fathers retreating to the shed and finding it difficult to reveal their true feelings. Clancy's ambivalence toward her Mum (who has 'greeting-card racks worth of motivational quotes') is played out with humour and insight.
Clancy's membership of the Nature Club introduces her to the new girl in town, Nancy. This is a complicated developing friendship as both are holding secrets that have affected their lives deeply. Clancy is also drawn in to older brother Angus' search for the Beast of Barwen. Readers from Northern NSW and Queensland will be well acquainted with the very popular urban myth (going by a variety of names) of a panther/mountain lion that haunts the bush.
Clancy has a crush on a Sasha. Her inner turmoil is believable as she worships from afar and also when the totally unexpected happens - Sasha notices her. The reader is presented with a birds-eye view of the uncertainty and self-deception that overtakes a teenager in love for the first time.
The themes of friendships, family relationships, bullying and difference are explored sensitively in this book with an Australian flavour and humour that could possibly leave some readers not from Australia a little flummoxed.
Linda Guthrie

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