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The Choke

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  4,255 ratings  ·  450 reviews
A mesmerising, harrowing and ultimately uplifting novel from the 2015 Miles Franklin winner.

Abandoned by her mother as a toddler and only occasionally visited by her volatile father who keeps dangerous secrets, Justine is raised solely by her Pop, an old man tormented by visions of the Burma Railway. Justine finds sanctuary in Pop's chooks and The Choke, where the banks of
Paperback, 369 pages
Published September 1st 2017 by Allen & Unwin (first published August 23rd 2017)
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Andrew I was wondering the same thing. She seems to daydream a lot in the book, so possibly. Hopefully someone can shed some light on this.
I was wondering the same thing. She seems to daydream a lot in the book, so possibly. Hopefully someone can shed some light on this.

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Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another heart breaker from this very talented writer. It starts very slowly but gradually creeps up on you - by the end I was a tearful mess.

Sofie Laguna writes about children you want to run out and adopt. In The Eye of the Sheep it was Jimmy, a delightful little boy with Asperger's Syndrome. In The Choke it is Justine, a child who is basically overlooked and neglected, a girl who is raised by men with major issues of their own and who consequently has no idea about life and its hazards. She is
3.5 rounded up

I saw Sofie Laguna recently during the Perth Writers Festival. The room was packed with people who had already read the The Choke . It was a riveting session, so I couldn't wait to get stuck into this book.

This novel is set during the early 1970s, in a small rural town in Victoria by the Murray River.
Our narrator is Justine Lee, who's ten. She lives with her paternal grandfather, Pop, as her mum had left when Justine was three and her father, Ray, is a drifter. Pop has undiagnosed
“When Pop spoke to me, it was the same as when Dad did. The words were there, but it was as if they were speaking to themselves. I was just an excuse.
. . .
It was because I was born back to front. My words were breech, like me.”

Justine tells her own story. It’s 1971, near the fictional rural town of Nullabri in Victoria, Australia. I’m aware of Narrabri and Boggabri in NSW, both seeming to mean “place of” something. We know what “null” means, and that’s pretty apt. Except for being near the
Justine lived with her Pop as her father, Ray, was rarely around. Her mother had left when she was three years old having never recovered, both physically and mentally, from Justine’s birth. Pop’s shack near the banks of the Murray River where he and Justine spent their days was barely liveable – Pop had survived the war, but his memories of the Burma Railway and his part in the building of it, were forever in his mind.

Justine had two half-brothers – Steve and Kirk – and while they were young,
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Justine was abandoned by her mother when she was only a small child. It was her Pop who came to her rescue and raised Justine on his own. On the odd occasion her father would visit. Her father was a man who kept dark and dangerous secrets and it was a good thing that Justine was not in his care.

Pop was an old man who'd been through the war and survived it, but to this day visions of the Burma Railway still haunts him.

To escape into another world, Justine enjoyed spending time with Pop's chooks
Paul Lockman
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-favourites
I thought about this book for a couple days before deciding on a rating, it was definitely going to be at least 4 but I have decided to give it 5 stars. I feel Sofie Laguna has nailed it, the characters and the setting were so raw and authentic and it’s no mean feat to write from the perspective of a child, Justine, who was 10 years old in the first two thirds of the book and 13 and 14 years old for the remainder.

We’re in the 1970s in country Victoria, Australia, and Justine lives with her grand
Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
Sofie Laguna, the brilliant Australian author of The Choke, first came to my attention when she won our country’s top literary prize, the Miles Franklin Award in 2015, for The Eye of the Sheep. It is a book I am yet to read but I am hoping to bring it to my book club as my pick, due to the accolades it has received. Sofie Laguna’s latest labour of love is a touching and heart wrenching read of a young girl named Justine Lee, living with her grandfather, in c
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who has read Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna will know that she has a special gift for writing special children and also excels at painting a uniquely Australian landscape for those characters. Her characters portray the expected gender roles of the time. Her books are not easy reads, they can leave you emotionally drained and often, for me anyway, will make you question your own thoughts and behaviours and bring dormant lying guilt back up to the surface.

Essentially this book is about J
I found this a dark and depressing story for the most part, albeit a powerful one, as I had a fair idea where it was heading from the start. Justine, abandoned by her mother when she was young and rarely visited by her largely absent, shady, womanising father, lives with her grandfather. Suffering from PTSD, with recurring nightmares of his WWII experience on the Burma Railway, he does his best to care for Justine but she is nevertheless impoverished and neglected. The kids at school avoid her a ...more
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“When Michael asked me questions, he waited for my answers. He wanted to find out. He wouldn’t go on until I answered. It was the opposite of invisible,”

The Choke is the third adult novel by award-winning Australian author, Sofie Laguna. Ten-year-old Justine Lee has lived with Pop since her mother split when she was just three. Pop loves his chooks and the big man (John Wayne), loves his White Ox rollies and loves Justine too, but he’s haunted by what he experienced in Burma, building the Easter
* 4.5 *

I picked this novel out of the 2018 Stella longlist line-up based on some great reviews and boy I was not disappointed. This might be one of the best new Australian novels I have read in some time. Set near Echuca in northern Victoria it is told through the eyes of a child, Justine, and through her we gradually come to know her fractured family and her life in this small town setting.

Laguna has such a deft hand at writing from a child's point of view. She is also a master at creating tens
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I adored Sofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep, published in 2014 so my expectations for her latest book, The Choke, were ridiculously and unachievably high. So it’s even more remarkable that I was not disappointed.

Laguna brings the voice of Justine to life with amazing care, craft and unwavering poignancy. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the 10 year old who believes everything wrong in her life is her own fault for being born backwards. “Who comes out on their knees ? Who comes into this
Kylie H
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is not unlike 'The Eye of the Sheep' in that it is another tragic story of a child with a flaw that is at the mercy of the adults around them.
Justine is a young girl being raised by her grandfather, a man battling his PTSD demons through social isolation and beer. Her father Ray drifts in and out of her life, but is a selfish man with no regard for his daughter.
Justine struggles in the education system, friendless and frowned upon by the teaching staff who do not realise her learning d
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
WOW this was a totally captivating read, and I am so thrilled to have found another excellent Australian author. The Choke- as the title would suggest, is not an easy read. This novel is gritty, confronting, uncomfortable and challenging in its subject material. It deals with real issues, PTSD, violence and assault; but what I found most disturbing, was the abject neglect of children, that occurred around and because of these issues. These ideas, and themes are developed boldly, in a way that le ...more
lucky little cat
Okay, now I want to find and read every single book Sofie Laguna's written. Her ten-year-old heroine Justine Lee is🔹the poorest, shyest kid at Nullabri Primary School
🔹the devoted friend of Michael Hooper, who has cerebral palsy and a wicked sense of humor
🔹one of the youngest (view spoiler) of a family feud
🔹an undiagnosed dyslexic
🔹smarter than she thinks and stronger than she knows

Set in Australia in the early 1970s, elements of the story are grim, but Laguna shepherds re
Michael Livingston
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A bleak and difficult book about a young girl growing up surrounded by male violence - it's hard going at times, but Justine is a wonderful character and Laguna leaves just enough hope amongst all the brutality.
Theresa Smith
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aww2017
Sofie Laguna’s latest novel for adults, The Choke, is a powerful story about a topic I have particularly strong personal feelings about: child neglect. A recent paper (June 2017) published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies presented a snapshot of data on child protection activity within Australia from 2011-12 through to 2015-16. Bearing in mind that these statistics only show what’s reported – there’s no way of knowing just how many children experience some form of abuse – it came as ...more
Young Justine is a real outsider, poor, dyslexic, abandoned. She lives with her Pop who struggles his with demons from WWII. Her father comes and goes for months at a time. Her mother abandoned her. Justine's only friend is a classmate who struggles with a brain injury.
Laguna can set up a scene, describe people struggling with all sought of challenges and not sway from the tough subjects. The story covers revenge, rape and a non caring society. This book is very raw.
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Finished up this frustratingly sad book today. It involves a young girl trying to navigate a confusing world without much support from the adults in her life. I was glad that she finally gained some agency near the end, but for most of the book I just wanted to help her. The writing seemed jarring to me at first, but it fits the voice of a young girl and I grew used to it.
Jeanette Lewis
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aussie-authors
This beautiful and disturbing read brought flashbacks of The Shiralee, Storm Boy and from this author The Eye of the Sheep. The children in these books are being cared for by men who have such dark and difficult backgrounds struggle for existence. This author, like in The Eye of the Sheep has once again made the main child character physically challenged with that of dyslexia which goes un-noticed until the end of the book. This compounds Justine’s already poor existence living with her Pop, who ...more
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a story we read and hear about often. A young, meek and innocent young girl, abandoned by her Mother and lives under the protection of her Grandfather. It's a grim story of male power and violence but more importantly of the resilience of the human spirit.
Suzie Bull
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brutal, convincing and absolutely breathtaking.
Rhian Eleri
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
.... SPOILER ALERT....This is one of those rare books that I only come across once in a blue moon. This is a story about young Justine. Growing up without her parents on an Australian farm, with her one and only pop (grandad) who has his own demons to battle. Pop has brought Jussy up since she was 3, when her mother up and left. Her father Ray (pops only son) comes and goes throughout her life, causes trouble everywhere he goes, and never really getting caught. During part one of the book- Ray r ...more
Sarah Jones
I thought this was a brilliant book, but I didn’t enjoy reading it at all.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm going to start by saying that this was largely an entirely unpleasant yet vastly thought-provoking read.

I don't consider myself a particularly sensitive reader, but I felt nauseated throughout most of this book. Sofie Laguna writes Justine's story so brilliantly that she gets deep into your heart and core, making you feel the same confusion, voicelessness and powerlessness that Justine does. This book has such a sinister undertow that I was constantly waiting for more horrific things to happ
Lara (luellabella✂️)
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars
5 haunting stars. This book was not what I expected. Set on the banks of the Murray River in the 1970s, a powerful tale of violence, friendship and fierce love. Justine, the young child who bravely navigates her way through the most difficult of childhoods, is one of those characters that gets under your skin. I ached for Justine from beginning to end, and like Eleanor Oliphant and Kya from Where the Crawdads Sing, I can’t imagine I’ll forget her anytime soon.
Claire Fuller
I really enjoyed this - the writing, the characters, the descriptions of the landscape. What I wasn't completely sure about was what happened in the last third of the book - this seemed like a big change of direction and pacing, but I'd still recommend it.
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Down at The Choke the river pushed its way between the banks. The river knew the way it wanted to go. Past our hide-outs, past our ring of stones, past the red gums leaning close enough to touch – it flowed forward all the way to the sea.’

This novel is set in the early 1970s, near the fictional town of Nullabri on the Victorian side of the Murray River. Our narrator is Justine Lee, aged ten. Justine lives with her paternal grandfather, Pop, in poverty on his bush block called ‘Pop’s Three’ on t
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Justine Lee is a little girl surrounded by males. Justine's mother abandoned the family many years ago, and her father Ray is in and out of his children's lives, leaving the main responsibility for raising Justine and her brothers to their grandfather. When Ray is around his criminal involvement is something that Justine, in particular, struggles with. She retreats to her sanctuary in The Choke on the Murray River to hide from the world, and seeks solace in the company of her Pop's chooks. In bo ...more
Eleni Hale
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’m reading this incredible book at the moment. It’s a hard one to describe. It’s packed with very tough subject matter, hopeful (surprisingly) beautiful moments and a writing style that is truly inspired.
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Sofie Laguna originally studied to be a lawyer at the University of New South Wales, but after deciding law was not for her, she moved to Melbourne to train as an actor. Sofie worked for a number of years as an actor at the same time as completing a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Sofie is now an author and playright writing for both adul ...more

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“I didn’t belong to myself anymore. I had no mouth or eyes or thoughts. I didn’t need anything to change or be different... The hole inside me was filled... and I was a part of things that couldn’t be seen. I don’t know how long I was there. There was no time.” 1 likes
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