Allen & Unwin
Imprint:A & U Children
The Master returns, proving yet again that he can still enthral readers of all ages with the most marvellous narratives. It would seem that being almost an octogenarian is no bar whatsoever to remaining a writer as brilliant as the titular birds in this story.
Even as I read, I could discern that not only did we have familiar themes but that there was much biographical influence in this one (especially as I’d read and reviewed Paul’s memoir a while back – if you haven’t yet read it, why on earth not?!
Twins Emily and Alex are quite different – Emily, practical and pragmatic, and devoted to the regenerated forest and wildlife sanctuary her father has created; Alex, sensitive and, at times, whimsical, believing that building his treehouse rooms will magically save people and avoid disasters. The teens lost their mother at a very young age and now they are faced with the loss of their father, who has been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour.
Each reacts in a completely different way as would be expected and their usual conflicting personalities become even more pronounced as they try to cope with the sad reality of the diagnosis. When Alex adopts a tiny feral kitten, Emily’s emotions boil over and the resulting fracas is not only distressing but potentially dangerous for both the teens and their dad’s increasingly fragile health. While Alex continues to assimilate his feelings in his creating and building, Emily pours her emotion into the memoir she is writing for her English lit class (which is the narrative we read).
Her writing takes her in a direction that is most unexpected but one that ultimately proves to be a salvation for both herself and her brother, not to mention making the last months of her father’s life joyful.
As one would know already, it is beautifully written. There is no cloying sentimentality or mawkishness here and, as always, Paul has completely captured the voices of his characters with absolute authenticity – in itself, an amazing gift.
I binge read this last night in little over a half hour (at less than 200 pages it is not lengthy) and was completely engrossed with this snapshot of one family’s tumultuous life episode. The tragedy of their situation is offset by the beauty, renewal and hope of the planted wild bush around them and the achievement of their father which will become his legacy.
It is really the most wonderful read and I highly recommend it to you for readers from middle primary to middle secondary.
Once again Paul, thank you – your audience continues to evolve as new generations of readers discover your wonderful talent.