Thursday 14 July 2011

REVIEW - 'On The Jellicoe Road', Melina Marchetta (Penguin, 2006)

Taylor Markham is an angry and frustrated seventeen year old. Abandoned by her mother several years previously, with only a patchy recollection of her childhood, she only has her distant guardian, Hannah to unwillingly fill in the gaps. That is until Hannah disappears. Leader of the Boarders at The Jellicoe school, Taylor is caught up in the fractious turf wars between The Boarders, the visiting army Cadets and the resident Townies. When she comes face to face with the leader of the Cadets, Jonah Griggs, a fellow lost soul who betrayed her trust in the past, Taylor learns the hard way that she has to let people in if she wants to find out the truth about her past.

I have to just say, condensing that novel into one paragraph was one mammouth task.

First off, I must say this was my second attempt at reading this book. I think this is an important thing to mention, as I suspect many readers may not make it past the first few pages. The severe information overload is overwhelming, with not one, but THREE back stories to contend with and I confess that I didn't feel I had the concentration required to invest in this book and promptly shoved it back in the cupboard to be wrestled with at some point in the future.

But I must urge you, I repeat URGE you to persevere - this has been one of the most rewarding titles I've read in, well, ever. After reading some pretty rave reviews, and considering I'm attending a Young Adult Fiction masterclass next week, run by one Ms. Marchetta, then I figured I should really give it another whirl.

Oh, thank Christ I did. I left me in pieces. Pieces, I tell you! Buzzing and bereft, all rolled into one, absolutely distraught because finishing it meant I would never have the joy of discovering again.

It all hinges on how successful and believable the voice of Taylor is to the reader, and Marchetta nails its completely. I was with her all the way. She is a tough customer, but not without reason. Marchetta carefully peels back the revelations and, for the most part, it was impossible to second guess her.

The corresponding back story, involving a groups of friends in the 1980s, forming bonds in the aftermath of tragedy (yes, I know, more depressing stuff, but stick with it) is perfectly interwoven into the plot, littering hints and clues without giving away the mystery.

The author directly references 'To Kill a Mockingbird' in the text, and the flashback sequences have shades of the classic. From the childlike nicknames (Webb, Fitz, Narnie, Tate) to the dusty setting, I pictured them all in dungarees, chewing on grass, skimming pebbles across the water. A strong image, But I would have like greater sense of time and place in these paragraphs - it was easy to forget they are set in the eighties, and so I felt I lost some connection with these characters.

A minor quibble though. This was a bloody brilliant read. Like any great YA read, it left me with a hankering to relive those days, despite all the drama. Or maybe because of it.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favourite ever books. But I put off reading it FOR YEARS because I'd been so intimidated by other people finding it confusing and hard to get into. I didn't find that at all, thankfully, and holy crap the whole story and the characters and everything just ripped my heart out. I'm such a fangirl of Melina Marchetta's!