Marianne's Reviews > Little Gods

Little Gods by Jenny  Ackland
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it was amazing
Read 2 times. Last read March 28, 2018 to April 1, 2018.

“It was true what Thistle always said, that trouble is around a person like air is, and you breathe it in. She made sure to sleep with her jaw clenched and woke in the mornings, wrenched out of her sleep to lie in bed, heart throbbing with a dream-fear so thick and real it was as if she might make everything come true just by imagining it.”

Little Gods is the second novel by Australian teacher and author, Jenny Ackland. Olive Lovelock has just turned twelve and is looking forward to the summer break spent with her cousins on their farm, Serpentine. But a chance remark by one of the Sands brothers at the local pool gives her a mystery to solve. Did she once have a baby sister? What happened to her? Why does no-one talk about her?

While the bones of the mystery will be apparent to the astute reader early on, the finer points of the Lovelock family’s tragic events are fed to the reader gradually and attention to seemingly insignificant details is required for it to all fall into place. And it eventually becomes clear that Olive’s memories are not quite as reliable as they first seem.

Olive is clever and wilful and, under the influence of her unconventional Aunt Thistle, daring, confident and determined. Craving Olive’s approval, her best friend, Peter and her cousins, Sebastian and Archie join in with her audacious plans, often against their better judgement. But helping her to extract a confession and mete out justice to the person she believes responsible for the tragedy, is that a step too far?

Little Gods oozes authenticity: the characters are flawed but ever so real and familiar; the setting, the heat, the dry are all expertly rendered; the dialogue, especially that of the children, is completely convincing; the shifting childhood loyalties and confusion at adult values, all realistic. “Rue cared a lot about what other people thought and it seemed to Olive that the less close the people were, the more important their opinions seemed to be.” And Olive wonders “Why it was that the words adults said so often didn’t match what they did.”

Ackland’s descriptions of the summer holidays (days at the pool, riding bikes, climbing trees, midnight excursions, pet wild birds, family stories retold, secret languages, inventive games) are so evocative that Australian readers of a certain vintage will wonder how she has managed to download their personal childhood memories without their knowledge.

Ackland gives the reader some marvellous descriptive prose: “Olive felt the pull of the trees. How would it be to float out of the window up over the roof and away from earth? To be far from the hard emotions that ran underneath the dinner noises?” and “A proper memory arrived then, like mail through a slot.” and “Thoughts would tap at her in a random series of small images that dropped into her head, without cause.” are examples.

Ackland’s second novel is a story about growing up and memories, about families and things not talked about in them, a story that is funny and sad and moving, and will stay with the reader well after the last page is turned.
With thanks to Allen and Unwin for this Uncorrected Proof copy to read and review.
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Quotes Marianne Liked

Jenny  Ackland
“As the years started to pull behind her like toffee, her mind always managed to find itself at her uncle and aunt's farm. And whenever she returned to those dark sticky years, it was still surprising how it all unravelled so quickly, the summer she turned twelve.”
Jenny Ackland, Little Gods

Jenny  Ackland
“To stand by and watch her cool interactions with others - even adults - was thrilling for a boy like Peter. He was someone who listened to the grown-ups and did what they told him. He'd realised the adult way was not a choice but a rule until you were a grown-up yourself and got your own turn. But Olive May Lovelock, she was taking her turn now.”
Jenny Ackland, Little Gods

Jenny  Ackland
“Jethro had a scar near one of his eyes, an angry tear that scraped through his eyebrow and reached up to his forehead where it disappeared beneath his hairline. In winter he wore black motorcycle boots and a checked sheepskin jacket that was orange and brown. He had sideburns like a man and the other kids said his eyes were like laser beams in comics, that your face would explode if he even looked at you. That was why he wore those steel-rimmed reflective sunglasses, they said, as he cruised around in his car with his hairy arm out the window, fingers spread wide on the door.

Jethro Sands was like the scariest crackers on Guy Fawkes Night. He was the loudest thunder, the meanest dog. Out of everyone she was scared of Jethro Sands the most. She imagined buildings and trees bursting into flame on either side of the road as he drove along, turning his head slowly from side to side. He was threatening, noxious. Dark.”
Jenny Ackland, Little Gods

Jenny  Ackland
“The jostling in the kitchen, though, was warm and companionable and for Olive, it was a rare spectacle. There was no other occasion that the three sisters came together in anything even approximating harmony. No one called anyone feeble or a martyr. No one got huffy and swept from the room in high dudgeon. There was a quiet, a hushed sense of almost-giggling as if the sisters might in a bizarre and spontaneous moment hang off each other’s necks to laugh about something from their childhood. It never happened but there was the feeling that it could.”
Jenny Ackland, Little Gods

Jenny  Ackland
“The book said that people were small gods filled with the power of the Almighty and able to enact their own lives, dispense wisdom and justice.”
Jenny Ackland, Little Gods

Jenny  Ackland
“Out of everyone she was scared of Jethro Sands the most, but she wasn’t sure why. All she knew was that she imagined buildings and trees bursting into flame on either side of the road as he drove along, turning his head slowly from side to side. He was threatening, noxious. Dark.”
Jenny Ackland, Little Gods


Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 5, 2017 – Shelved
December 5, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
March 28, 2018 – Started Reading
March 29, 2018 –
page 111
34.69%
March 30, 2018 –
page 320
100.0%
April 1, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Marianne Some quotes I couldn't fit into the review:
“The jostling in the kitchen, though, was warm and companionable and for Olive, it was a rare spectacle. There was no other occasion that the three sisters came together in anything even approximating harmony. No one called anyone feeble or a martyr. No one got huffy and swept from the room in high dudgeon. There was a quiet, a hushed sense of almost-giggling as if the sisters might in a bizarre and spontaneous moment hang off each other’s necks to laugh about something from their childhood. It never happened but there was the feeling that it could.”

“The book said that people were small gods filled with the power of the Almighty and able to enact their own lives, dispense wisdom and justice.”

“Out of everyone she was scared of Jethro Sands the most, but she wasn’t sure why. All she knew was that she imagined buildings and trees bursting into flame on either side of the road as he drove along, turning his head slowly from side to side. He was threatening, noxious. Dark.”


Marianne Some people have said they were confused by the ending, so here's my take on it: (view spoiler)


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