I reviewed ‘The Silent Kookabura’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.
All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall wants is a happy family. But Mum does nothing besides housework, Dad’s always down the pub and Nanna Purvis moans at everyone except her dog. Then Shelley arrives –– the miracle baby who fuses the Randall family in love for their little gumnut blossom.
Tanya’s life gets even better when she meets an uncle she didn’t know she had. He tells her she’s beautiful and could be a model. Her family refuses to talk about him. But that’s okay, it’s their little secret.
Then one blistering summer day tragedy strikes, and the surrounding mystery and suspicion tear apart this fragile family web.
Embracing the social changes of 1970s Australia, against a backdrop of native fauna and flora, The Silent Kookaburra is a haunting exploration of the blessings, curses and tyranny of memory.
Unsettling psychological suspense blending the intensity of Wally Lamb with the atmosphere of Peter James, this story will get under your skin.
This is a really well-written and absorbing story. Set in 1970s small-town Australia it centres on Tanya – an unhappy child, overweight, bullied at school and trying to cope with her mother who has been devastated by a series of miscarriages. Her father loves her, but he doesn’t cope either, seeking solace far too often in the local pub, and her grandmother, Nanna Purvis, is a hard woman, although her kindness shines through as the novel progresses.
When her mum finally gives birth to a daughter, Tanya thinks things will be fine, but problems with baby Shelley’s health, cracks in her parents’ marriage and the arrival on the scene of creepy Uncle Blackie mean that Tanya has much more to deal with than she can cope with.
And things only get worse.
But this isn’t a miserable story. Yes, some parts are uncomfortable to read. I wanted to whisk poor Tanya away and give her a cuddle and a decent meal. But there are glimpses of hope – Nanna Purvis, who underneath her hard exterior is full of love, and Tanya’s best friend Angela and her kind and loving (if possibly criminal!) family.
The author obviously knows her setting well and there’s a real sense of time and place with little details about food, TV and fashion giving the realistic touches that make this novel so authentic.
A well-executed book about family, relationships and the extraordinary things that can happen in ordinary lives.