Hunger Town by Wendy Scarfe
Wakefield Press, 2014. ISBN 9781743053362
(Age: Young Adult) Wendy Scarfe has been writing for over four decades, with many of her published works highlighting her special interests in history, and social and political issues.
The desperate days of the Great Depression form the backdrop to Scarfe's novel Hunger Town. It is the story of a city caught in a cycle of 'unemployment, hunger, protests and police reprisals', and a country poised on the cusp of political and social change, driven by a generation with new ideas.
Set on the Port River in Adelaide during this turbulent era, Hunger Town is primarily an historical narrative. Scarfe inveigles the personal dilemmas of Judith and Harry Larsen and their compatriate working class people into this narrative of Australia's political history. Her vignettes tell of Judith's unusual upbringing on a coaling hulk moored on the Port River, of widespread unrest, a burgeoning communist party and its attempt to establish a presence in Mildura. Finally, a misguided foray into the fascist politics of Europe and Spain, and Judith's race against time to rescue Harry from both himself and the spreading disease of fascism, hint at the unrest of those times.
Hunger Town spotlights an Australia many of us are too young to have experienced. Although Scarfe uses her historical knowledge to evoke those dark, desperate days, her sweep of characters sometimes does not allow them to grow within the context of the story.