Under a Pole Star – Stef Penney
This is a complex book, set in the time of exploration of the North Pole at the end of 19th century.
It deals with multiple issues – exploitation of the Inuit (first people); the role of women; obsession and the corrupting desire of ambition.
It is a fascinating portrayal of a specific time and place, but one that would be suited to senior readers due to some content.
Designed for younger high school readers, this novel is based around the lives of Chinese immigrants who left their homeland to find their fortunes in Australia during the goldrush.
Yong accompanies his father and other families from their small village in Guangdong, to the goldfields of Ballarat.
The story provides a strong understanding of traditional Chinese family values and in particular, honour.
This was certainly a very different kind of novel and one that I quite enjoyed. The most difficult thing I found was the main character’s name – Clover! Despite being chosen for have ‘love’ in the middle of it.
Clover’s mother died shortly after she was born. Her father has hidden away all memories of her, but Clover wants to know more.
Her mission is to create a museum for her Mum, of all the things she finds and catalogues in their home. The truth is not always what we expect.
Unusual, interesting and very readable.
The blurb of this novel (collection of connected pieces) reminded me of Tim O’Brien’s ‘The things they carried’. However I struggled to follow the opening sections and found the connections difficult as well.
The storylines are brutal and very graphic in places, as is the nature of war. I think that junior or less mature readers would struggle with the way the narrative jumps and the stream of consciousness nature of the dividing sections.
This book caused some controversy in it’s home country on publication and featured in Banned Book week this year.
It follows the unsuspecting ‘grooming’ of Aleksandra, by an older and confident young man.
The novel deals with the a pretty dark and seedy side of life, but one that is all too real. We don’t often hear a lot about it here in NZ, but not in Europe where the novel is set.
Aleks is naiive, awkward and totally unworldly – a prime target for Megan, her ‘new friend’ who finds girls for the ‘boyfriends’ to exploit and control. Victim blaming plays a large role too.
Definitely for a mature teen reader – and maybe parents out there too.
I don’t want to write too much about this one – as I don’t want to give too many spoilers away! But this is a very enthralling story.
Four characters living on a remote farm, where they are controlled as the ‘special ones’. They live without the luxuries of modern day life. They are watched 24/7 to make sure that they do not step outside the rules of their world. When they get too big or too old they are ‘renewed’ and a new version takes their place.
Well written and suspenseful, but maybe for a more mature reader.