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Thursday's Child

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Harper Flute believes that her younger brother Tin, with his uncanny ability to dig, was born to burrow. While their family struggles to survive in a bleak landscape during the Great Depression, the silent and elusive little Tin - "born on a Thursday and so fated to his wanderings" - begins to escape underground, tunneling beneath their tiny shanty. As time passes, Tin becomes a wild thing, leaving his family further and further behind.

With exquisite prose, richly drawn characters, and a touch of magical realism, Sonya Hartnett tells a breathtakingly original coming-of-age story through the clear eyes of an observant child. It’s an unsentimental portrait of a loving family faced with poverty and heartbreak, entwined with a surreal vision of the enigmatic Tin, disappearing into a mysterious labyrinth that reaches unimaginably far, yet remains hauntingly near.

272 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2000

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About the author

Sonya Hartnett

50 books299 followers
Sonya Hartnett (also works under the pseudonym Cameron S. Redfern) is, or was, something of an Australian child prodigy author. She wrote her first novel at the age of thirteen, and had it published at fifteen. Her books have also been published in Europe and North America. Her novels have been published traditionally as young adult fiction, but her writing often crosses the divide and is also enjoyed by adults.

"I chose to narrate the story through a child because people like children, they WANT to like them," says Sonya Hartnett of THURSDAY'S CHILD, her brilliantly original coming-of-age story set during the Great Depression. "Harper [the young narrator] is the reason you get sucked into the characters. Even I, who like to distance myself from my characters, felt protective of her."

The acclaimed author of several award-winning young adult novels--the first written when she was just 13--Australian native Sonya Hartnett says she wrote THURSDAY'S CHILD in a mere three months. "It just pulled itself together," she says. "I'd wanted to set a story in the Depression for some time, in an isolated community that was strongly supportive. Once the dual ideas of the boy who tunneled and the young girl as narrator gelled, it almost wrote itself--I had the cast, I had the setting, I just said 'go.' " Accustomed to writing about edgy young adult characters, Sonya Hartnett says that identifying with a seven-year-old protagonist was a challenge at first. "I found her difficult to approach," she admits. "I'm not really used to children. But once I started, I found you could have fun with her: she could tell lies, she could deny the truth." Whereas most children know "only what adults want them to know," the author discovered she could bypass that limitation by "turning Harper into an eavesdropper and giving her older siblings to reveal realities."

In her second book with Candlewick Press, WHAT THE BIRDS SEE, Sonya Hartnett once again creates a portrait of childhood. This time the subject is Adrian, a nine-year-old boy living in the suburbs with his gran and Uncle. For Adrian, childhood is shaped by fear: his dread of quicksand, shopping centers, and self-combustion. Then one day, three neighborhood children vanish--an incident based on a real case in Australia in the 1960s--and Adrian comes to see just how tenuous his safety net is. In speaking about Adrian, the author provocatively reveals parallels between herself and her character. She says, "Adrian is me in many respects, and many of the things that happen to him happened to me."

Sonya Hartnett's consistently inspired writing has built her a legion of devotees. Of THURSDAY'S CHILD, Newbery Honor-winning author Carolyn Coman says, "Hartnett's beautifully rendered vision drew me in from the very start and carried me along, above and under ground, to the very end. This book amazed me." The achingly beautiful WHAT THE BIRDS SEE has just as quickly garnered critical acclaim. Notes PUBLISHERS WEEKLY in a starred review, "Hartnett again captures the ineffable fragility of childhood in this keenly observed tale. . . . Sophisticated readers will appreciate the work's acuity and poetic integrity." Sonya Hartnett's third young adult novel, STRIPES OF THE SIDESTEP WOLF was named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults.

Sonya Hartnett lives near Melbourne, Australia. Her most recent novels are SURRENDER, a mesmerizing psychological thriller, and THE SILVER DONKEY, a gently told fable for middle-grade readers.

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5 stars
355 (26%)
4 stars
508 (38%)
3 stars
337 (25%)
2 stars
92 (6%)
1 star
35 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 149 reviews
Profile Image for Hilary .
2,156 reviews394 followers
June 20, 2022
The title Thursday's Child, refers to the character called Tin, he has far to go, the rest of the characters must have all been born on Wednesday because this book is completely full of woe. I understand these were bleak times but this book was unrelenting gloom.

The story is told by Harper, younger sister to Devon and Audrey and we begin our gloom-fest when Tin is 5 yrs old and his mother is about to give birth. During the birth of his younger brother

After a high action start the next 80 or so pages are about Tins new hobby and nothing much happens. This was a read aloud but my daughter said she wanted to bail out after this long period of nothing happening so I continued reading this to myself to see what happened.

More doom arrives...

This slight reprieve in the doom wasn't enough to change the sadness this book brings. Although there were things I loved about the writing and the characters this was really bleak and heavy for a children's book and you really had to suspend disbelief about the practicalities of Tin's new way of life.

A very sad read.
Profile Image for SheAintGotNoShoes.
1,521 reviews
June 22, 2022
Wow !! That was page turningly brilliant. Grim, demoralizing, strange and even degrading in parts and there were sections that this book could have been passed off as horror. I loved it. I prefer grim reality over Pollyanna as I am more of a glass half empty pessimist. Not as grim as ' Child of God ', 'The Nether World ' or ' Child of the Jago ' but it rivals them to some degree.
Profile Image for Katy Kelly.
2,019 reviews72 followers
April 26, 2017
A different sort of plot - almost 'At the Edge of the Orchard' for children

4.5 stars

A family lives in near poverty after World War I in a forest clearing with poor soil, many children, and few prospects. On the day a new baby arrives, there is an accident and 4-year-old Tin is buried in the earth, feared dead. When he miraculously finds his way back to the surface, it starts his obsessions with tunnelling, and narrator Harper tells us about the subsequent years of hardship - little food, hunger, growing up. Tin now lives underground permanently, his little brother doesn't know him.

Harper narrates the Flute family's trials over the next few years, and how Tin's world delicately tunnels through them.

It's an unusual story, I couldn't see where it was going for a while, the idea of Tin living underground, but it does mesh with Harper's world through the years. Their lives are hard a lot, though the family feeling is there, the love and loyalty. It is a surprise to discover more about Harper's parents later on, and to see just where the plot goes.

Not for the youngest of primary children, there are some more mature themes and also violence and death in these pages. I would recommend ages 12 and above as its intended audience. It may upset.

It's a hard book to classify, Harper grows from a naive girl of 7 to a teenager, seeing death, siblings fall in love, parental conflict, hardship.

For readers who like historical-set stories, family novels, and books with something a little different.

Profile Image for Nina Pace.
11 reviews3 followers
December 13, 2010
This is another book that leaves a lasting impression. Hartnett's style and simplicity of writing directs all focus to the troubled Tin and his family, who live in a state of poverty and struggle. Despite its setting in outback Australia, Hartnett's book feels timeless. It is a dark and dreamy tale of a secreted and almost mythological family life. Its a beautiful but slightly chilling tale that leaves you feeling edgy and moved.
Profile Image for Corinne Edwards.
1,413 reviews210 followers
January 28, 2016
It takes Harper and her family a while to realize that Tin is not meant from this above-ground world. It's Harper that finally figures it out, since Tin's her younger brother and all, and since she's charged with watching him. Living during the Great Depression, their barren farm and shack of a house are little comfort to Harper as she and Tin grow older and further apart.

Thursday's Child is a growing up story. A Depression story. A broken-family story. A story of a boy who's happier underground and his sister who always seems left behind at home to deal with the struggles of her family. Harper is a brilliantly written character - the responsibilities and worries of an adult but with the frustrated understanding of a child. Hard, hard things happen to her and her reactions resonated with sincerity.

The author is Australian and in my mind I pictured this story taking place in the dry Australian outback, although no cities or countries are ever mentioned by name. Their poverty and Harper's parents' ways of coping create a life of serious hardship for Harper and yet there is a strange hope that she clings to, a strength that allows her to keep loving. While it wasn't so gripping that I couldn't put it down, it was an incredible story of family and the things we do to each other and for each other. I think I just believed it. I fell under the spell of the era and the people - and Tin is a fascinatingly bizarre character. It took me to another world for a time and I have a feeling these characters won't leave my mind any time soon.
(4.5 stars)
Profile Image for Philip Goddard.
32 reviews
June 18, 2013
Recommended by my Creative Writing Tutor, I was completely enchanted with the story of this family making their way through difficult and troubling times. It is beautifully observed, The forgiveness and understanding of how things are in a family where faults are always most apparent to the other members is masterful.

The strangeness of one of the members of the family within the story is wonderfully interwoven with the day to day living; so effectively that you accept it as part of the family.

One of the most poignant things is the outside worlds effect on this family's fortunes, their struggle and endurance to withstand the hardships and torments and their getting on with life. The ending is strange, wonderfully crafted, telling in respect of the personalities within the family and above all satisfying. I let out a huge sigh after reading the last line and there are very few books that can make you do that.
Profile Image for The Hofs.
213 reviews
June 11, 2019
this book is W.E.I.R.D. The idea of a ferral child is just down right sad to me. Im 50 pages into the book as a preview for goose and Im thinking that I won't continue. Im wondering why others on goodreads rated it so high? I thought it would be an interesting read about a family in the depression but instead,they let one of their many children live UNDER THE DARN HOUSE (!) and never come out to see the light of day because he likes it there. The author said that she got the idea for the book after watching ants work and tunnel outside. Maybe it is the Mom in me that finds this disturbing??
Profile Image for Ester Elbert.
99 reviews2 followers
November 26, 2017
Pleasant read with a bittersweet insight of life during the great depression.
I wish this book was more popular.
Profile Image for Calzean.
2,581 reviews1 follower
November 24, 2016
It's a strange book, very creative with a mixture of real and surreal storylines.

Narrated by Hannah from the age of 7 to 21. She lives in a post-WWI soldier settlement with a father who is not a farmer, a mother of great patience and her four siblings. They are poor, they struggle, they live off the rabbits the father traps, the father turns to drink, the eldest son runs away to find work and the eldest daughter is forced to work for a local sleaze-bag farmer as his housekeeper. The Great Depression hits and the poor are hit hardest. That is the real bit.

The surreal bit is the second youngest boy Tin. He does not utter a word in the whole book. He begins to dig and dig and dig. He digs burrows. Lives underground. Goes missing in his world of darkness for long periods and his parents are happy that he has found his happy place. He becomes almost mythological.

It is quite chilling in parts as the story charts Hannah's emotional journey to adulthood.

Profile Image for E.H. Alger.
Author 3 books17 followers
October 20, 2020
A spur of the moment read. I was rearranging my bookshelves and picked this one up - it’s languished unread on my shelves for years. I’ve read several other novels by Australian author, Sonya Hartnett, and loved them - she’s been called ‘the finest Australian writer of her generation’. This one won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, but I can’t imagine many children enjoying it! It describes the Depression years seen through the eyes of a child, but it’s grim and gritty and weirdly surreal. Harper’s family live in abject poverty, her parents are inept and hopeless, and her young brother Tin has turned into a wild, half-human, half-mole creature who digs a network of tunnels underground with his bare hands. Did I say surreal?
Profile Image for Natalie Baker.
8 reviews
October 18, 2011
When I first began reading this book, I found it to be incredibly strange. It does not seem plausible that a family would allow their child to dig tunnels under their house, let alone live in those tunnels. As I kept reading though I realized that Sonya Hartnett is not merely telling a story of a family during the Great Depression in Australia. Instead, she has done an incredibly amazing job of telling the story of Harper and exploring Harper's psyche through her portrayal of Tin. Sonya Hartnett is an impressive author though, one of the best I've ever read. I would recommend this book to anyone! Loved it!
Profile Image for Kyrie.
2,966 reviews
September 1, 2016
Young adult and children's authors seem to convey emotion and situations so much better than adult fiction

Don't ask me how, but it's believable that the family got so caught up in other things that they let Tin go wild and dig all over the place.

That's the premise that made me pick up the book. The story, as seen through Harper's eyes, isn't happy, but it's not horribly sad either. It's just how people survive bad times and bad choices.

It's worth reading for the writing if that makes sense. It's like being with Harper through everything.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
125 reviews1 follower
August 31, 2022
An accurate account of family life post war - poverty & hardship.

A heavy read as the despair is huge and to think our history is this - to feel the anguish of people who had no means of any welfare as there was just none in that era

This is a story that makes you realise more so why it’s important to care for those who fit this pain.
626 reviews
November 20, 2017
This is a dark book, in many ways. Told through the eyes of Harper Flute, a girl growing up during in Australia during the depression, it's in some ways a coming of age and family story. The family is struggling to make a living on a plot of land given to the father for his service and injury in World War I, but they know nothing about farming and instead eke out a living by selling rabbit skins. There's clearly tension between the mother and father, she more concerned with food on the table and shoes and clothes for the kids, he with half-baked ideas about raising cattle (he buys several cows but no bull) or finding gold, combined with a weakness for the bottle. But beneath all of this "normal drama" is the case of the young boy named Tin, who at around the age of 4 starts burrowing underneath their shanty, eventually creating a labyrinthine network of tunnels whose extent is unknowable and seldom emerging from the darkness to join his family. As they try to make ends meet and lurch from crisis to crisis, Harper is left largely on her own to try to make sense of Tin—is he a monster or beloved but peculiar little boy—as well as of her older siblings as they look beyond the family for ways to help, of her warring parents, and of herself as she approaches adolescence and greater maturity. It's a very original story and well told.
Profile Image for Amber Scaife.
1,074 reviews10 followers
December 19, 2017
This one follows the story of a young girl and her family in Australia during the Depression, living in a rough shack and barely getting by. The writing is good, but there issues for me with the plot: one of her brothers lives almost exclusively in the system of tunnels that he digs (starting when is only something like 5 years old) under their house and spreading for what seems like must be miles. I can't quite put my finger on what didn't work for me; the story seems a little directionless and I just couldn't quite be okay with that tunneling brother or his part in the story. However, the suspense of the thing kept me reading despite my quibbles.
Profile Image for Monica Cichosz.
71 reviews
March 2, 2020
This was a great read; 4.5 stars.

I thought the writing style excellent and I loved the accuracy of Harper’s child POV. It gave the book an interesting angle. So many strange elements with the digging, wild brother and the extreme poverty.

I loved that Tin’s family fully supported him being him, even though he didn’t fit into any concept of humanity that the rest of the world can/could recognize. What a concept. If only we could all do that for our kids. I know I try but I don’t know if I could have done what Tin’s family did. It’s beautiful to me though.

I’m not fully sure about the ending. I think I like it, but then I’m not sure.

All in all, I loved this book.
Author 1 book2 followers
May 2, 2021
This is a book that will grab you from the first page and never let you go with its charming and young narrator. And what an emotional rollercoaster it was! It truly shows all the horrors of the Great Depression. I cried several times and yet again at the end because it was over. What a hauntingly beautiful book. It just felt so real. Even Tin. Even the bad guys.

But despite how heartbreaking it is, it also taught me many lessons. Lessons on how hard times pass too. On how to love your family even when it is falling apart. On how to appreciate the things I have.

I finished this book in one day and can promise you will too.

5 stars. I won't forget this story anytime soon.
2 reviews
November 14, 2019
I don't know what I expected out of this. I definitely did not expect for this book to feel so much like reality and so much the exact opposite. It gave me something to chew on. But I don't know if it is easily digestible: in one of the better ways.

I think leaving the review this vague and open ended will hopefully encourage you to read this book, without having formed any preconceived notions.

That's what I hope.
1,005 reviews3 followers
May 16, 2021
probably read this book back in 2003, when it first came out in the U.S. I absolutely loved it then! Just read it again for a class and loved it every bit as much.

Also, found I have a signed copy in my daughter's name (I started doing that when I met authors at signings in hopes that Erin would find it harder to throw out all my books when I die), and Hartnett had inscribed it, "Dig It", which makes me smile.
Profile Image for Harry Davies.
2 reviews
August 11, 2013
SPOILER ALERT: THEY ALL DIE. Only kidding they all live happily ever after mr cable dies, caffy's dies, tin becomes an animal, Devon sells champion, they lose their cattle to passer-bys, their house falls down, da becomes an alcoholic, Audrey gets raped, and Devon goes to war. But tin, tin finds gold that frees them all until BAM!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Casle.
151 reviews1 follower
March 5, 2019
This is beautifully written. Dark, lyrical, confusing, compelling story about poverty, and finding your strength. I read it before. I've read all Sonya Hartnett's books. I've lived some and hated some but have always been impressed with her story weaving. Surrender is the darkest and the best, but Thursday's Child is the one I recommend the most.
145 reviews39 followers
April 13, 2021
This book is incredible, it truly makes you think and analyse what is happening, the ending is curious too, as you must infer as to what meaning you will take out of it. This book is excellent to read to those who love books that make you ponder and contemplate on it. This book is not hard to read and involves heavy topics, although I belive is what makes it so interesting.
Profile Image for Imogen.
106 reviews
June 3, 2022
Sonya Heartnet is maybe one of the best writers there is
17 reviews
January 21, 2019
This is one of those hard hitting books. I have never felt so deeply connected with a book before. The book is simply enticing and honorable, definitely five stars.
Profile Image for Marcel Filo.
25 reviews
January 28, 2022
The most enchanting interpretation and commentary on Meister Eckheart's idea of one ground. This description of godhead is refreshing verging on sublime.
/Joke review
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
89 reviews
November 19, 2022
A strange tale about a feral, burrowing boy who creates and lives in an underground tunnel complex, and his poverty stricken family.
28 reviews
April 14, 2010
This is a story about Harper Flute and her memories of growing up in a poor family with very little. The story began with the birth of her youngest brother, Caffy. On that day, Harper was supposed to be watching Tin when he was suddenly buried by a mudslide. The father was able to save him, but Tin realized his natural ability for digging. He began digging tunnels under the house, which by the end of the story, leads to a sort of underground palace with endless connecting tunnels. The kids grow up and painfully learn that life is not fair, “The world you live in when you are nine is different from the world that other people live within…” (p.94) Many times, Harper’s parents break under the stress of living such a poor life and the kids have to take matters into their own hands (Devon selling his horse and leaving on foot to find work, Audrey going to work as a housekeeper for the creepy Mr. Cable…). Though Tin is the main mystery, he is the family’s salvation: it is him that causes the shanty to cave in leading to the family getting a bigger, better house; he is the one to defend Audrey when she gets attacked by Cable; and, he is the one who brings the family gold, changing their situation in life. Harper holds a lot of resentment for her hard life, “Tin, I thought, had chosen the wisest way to live his life. I wished he had taken me with him.” (p.183) Due to her hard life, Harper learns to be brave (though inside I get the sense that there is still a lot of weakness in her), “It’s good that you’re brave. You shouldn’t let yourself be frightened, Harper. People who let themselves be frightened, they’re defeated before they’ve even tried. Being cowardly never changed anything. It’s being brave that makes the difference.” (Devon, p. 201) In the end, thanks to Tin, Harper’s dream of seeing the ocean comes true when she goes to live with Audrey in a little house by the edge of the sea. “Looking back, life seems, in its way, like a fall from a great height, the outcome decided even before the event is begun. I love to be here, where I feel finally secure, but often my heart jolts and wrenches, tripping on its own memories.” (p.260) Another great book by Hartnett is Sleeping Dogs.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kevin.
1 review
September 11, 2013
Thursday's Child Mini Review

The genre of the fictional novel Thursday's Child is Classical first person narrative told in the eyes of a young girl called Harper in the depression period in the Australian Outback.

It basically covers a family's struggle through poverty, trouble and difficult relationships and inter workings between different people having both good and bad times and both suffering and prosperity.

The book was a good read (heh heh) as it brings insight into what the mood of that period of time would have been like and allows us to understand how fortunate we all are today and it allows us to reflect upon our experiences compared to theirs. It is a genuinely interesting tale but however suffers from being too sad or depressing in certain points of the book discouraging reading. In addition to this it rather slow reading having little or no change in setting and pace of the book, only a few times will the book actually try to excite the reader.

It basically reminds me of "brother where art thou" where three men escape from an American prison too looking for a certain treasure going through constant suffering and pain to achieve their goal having timely troubled relationships.

I would recommend it to someone who is emotionally capable of reading a depressing book such as this while being capable of enjoying the depression period setting, essentially someone who likes the poverty or struggle type of novel.
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