Whalesong – Kate Gordon


Riveted Press/Yellow Brick Books

September 2022

ISBN: 9780645218022

RRP: $16.95

I absolutely love Tasmania. I have now been there four times, the last was an adventure with The Kid, who also loved it. There is still so much for me to explore and I’m really hoping we can go back again. One of the aspects I love so much about this treasure of a state, is the rich history that abounds everywhere you go – much of which is lovingly and respectfully preserved today.

This first foray into time-slip/historical fiction from Kate Gordon is just lovely. It did remind me of the much loved Playing Beatie Bow with the set of historical steps being very much in the forefront of the story, and that – as I think we can all agree – was a magnificent novel.

Aberdeen’s family have an association with Hobart which reaches back generations, and when she is given an antique chronometer, her family history becomes an intense, dramatic and sometimes dangerous adventure into the past.

Kate Gordon blends themes of conservation, environmental awareness, feminism, courage, family identity/heritage with the glorious tapestry that is the backstory of our smallest state. Aberdeen’s meeting with Betty is a revelation to her. Not only because of the newly discovered facts about a [undeservedly] revered historical figure, but because of the lineage of her family tree. Australia’s history and the whaling industry gives many of us pause for thought, particularly if, like myself, your family had a close association with those times. We know better now, of course we do, but in colonial times, the wealth of the country was very much tied up with practices that are now out of favour. Certainly, we have come a long way since those times and it is only fitting that we do all we can to redress the wrongs of a time when such industries were considered completely justified. Not necessarily in the manner of some practitioners, such as the villain of this story, so thankfully Aberdeen is able to set that straight – and more than that, create a new future for herself and others. “One person really can make a difference.”

I would suggest that this is a book for your more able and mature readers. They will need to stay focused in order to pick up on the nuances in the text. but it is not a difficult read as such. If you are looking for a shared reading to accompany a unit of work set in early 19th century Australia this would be a very good choice indeed and will offer up much to mine for productive conversations.

I recommend it for readers from around Year 6 upwards especially those who enjoy historical fiction.

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