May 02, 10
Read in May, 2010
I found this book quite by chance, inexplicably with our juvenile chapter books, although to my mind the mature content makes it more of a teen novel. The action takes place in Sydney, Australia in the early 1950s, the Cold War era. Three sisters tell the tale, but the focus is on the youngest, a six-year-old (perhaps the reason the book was considered a juvenile read). Their father, who is often absent on military duty, had emotional problems as a result of his service in World War II. His brother, who lives in town but often rides out to the suburbs to visit the girls and their mother, seems to have a decided interest in their mom. Meanwhile, a group of Russian spies move in next door and Matilda, the six-year-old, notices that one of them appeared in a newsreel. The chapters are interspersed with the text of actual newspaper stories about the Russian spy, an interesting touch. Matilda's recollection of a family picnic during which her disturbed father tried to commit suicide is what places the book properly in the teen section for me. I later discovered this author also wrote a picture book I like, "The Terrible Plop".