The novel opens jarringly (which the author fully intended, I'm sure) with thirteen-year-old Victoria, the first person narrator, being raped by her f...moreThe novel opens jarringly (which the author fully intended, I'm sure) with thirteen-year-old Victoria, the first person narrator, being raped by her father, staining her new blue dress with blood. Victoria's mother defensively rejects the girl, as does her father's doting mother with the suggestion that Victoria is jealous of her brother and seeking attention, while her self-absorbed aunt appropriates Victoria's hurt for her own psychodrama. Disorientated and deeply wounded, Victoria scrapes together some money and buys a train ticket for Queensland, accompanied by her eight-year-old brother, a bright little boy who does not speak. She renames herself Morgan and her brother Max, and she and Max join a group of other teenagers living on the street: Marcelle, who dreams of being a film star, intimidating and heavily pregnant Allie, drug-addicted Angel, and Josh, whose father has been jailed for a crime he did not commit. But it's a tenuous life, and as events pull the group apart, Josh leaves Morgan and Max a sanctuary, in the form of his room in the boarding house Tibet. There she meets Xam (another Max), an elderly retired lawyer, and starts to write the story of how she came to be where she is. The theme of silencing runs through the novel - many of the characters, children and adults, have been silenced in some way - as does the theme of regaining one's voice. I went into that in more detail in a blog entry, some years back. http://www.alisonsinclair.ca/2007/05/...
Why is this a five-star book for me? Morgan's voice, Morgan and Max's as character, and all the vivid supporting cast, Marcelle, Allie, Angel, Josh, Xam, the keeper and owner of a brothel where Morgan winds up finding a job, the prostitutes themselves, the members of the feminist theatre troop Allie joins, the youth worker Ingrid Frew, Morgan's aikido teacher, Morgan's mother even . . . some of them are in the book for a few pages, but they're all wonderfully drawn and observed by Morgan. It's a serious book about a serious theme, but there's healing in community, in imagination, and in the realization of art.
My one complaint: the cover of the hardcover edition, specifically the painting. It doesn't in the least capture the book's sparkle. There was an earlier softcover that was much more appealing.(less)
Homeland is told entirely in the form of a correspondence between two women nominally on opposite sides of the American Civil War. Susanna is the daug...moreHomeland is told entirely in the form of a correspondence between two women nominally on opposite sides of the American Civil War. Susanna is the daughter of a Southern plantation-holder and a gifted artist; intellectual Cora, from Maine, is married to one of Susanna's family friends, Emory. Susanna opens the correspondence with a plea to Cora not to tell anyone that she saw Susanna in a compromising embrace. Cora gently admonishes Susanna that the man���Emory's widowed father, Justin���does not have a good reputation, but otherwise holds her peace. When the Civil war begins, a newly pregnant Cora returns to her family home in Maine, while Emory enlists in the army. But he chooses to enlist in the Confederate Army, leaving her to ensure the pity and suspicion���when she refuses to consider divorce���of her neighbours and former friends. Both women wind up trapped by the needs of others, even as their situations become progressively more difficult, and especially for Susannah, dangerous. As the South collapses, Susannah's home becomes a refuge for militia���more than half bandits by this time���and hold-outs from the confederate army, Emory among them.
Why five stars: I admire Barbara Hambly's work, full-stop, the meticulousness of her presentation of history, and her eye for the ambiguities in character, the nuances in power-relations, and the accommodations people make to survive. The epistolatory form works so well for this story, especially the device of the unsent letters in which Susanna writes down the things she dare not tell Cora. The reader has to do just enough work to piece together what is implied rather than said, or mentioned and then filled in after, which gives it the flavour of a real correspondence. I love the details of soap-making, foraging, and survival, and they, too, work as expressed in the letters, where they might not fit easily into a conventional narrative.(less)