Thursday, 8 July 2010

A Girl Like Me


There is much to recommend about 'A Girl Like Me,' written by Penny Matthews.

Penny Matthews is an author who grew up in rural South Australia. Her novel is also set in rural South Australia, though more than a hundred years ago, and Penny has a strong grasp of the rural landscape, its people, and social issues of the time.

Life is seen through the eyes of Emmie, a likeable 15 year old who comes from a middle class English family. This is an era where soldiers fought in the Boer War; where black ribbons and wreaths appeared on people's front doors after the death of Queen Victoria, and where there is a distinctive delineation between farmers of English and German origin.

Emmie is growing up and questioning the social attitudes of the time. For instance, why do her brothers get a proper education when Emmie does not? Why is it that a woman's role in life is to run a household and find a husband?

Then Bertha Schippen comes to work for Emmie's family. Emmie, although bewildered by Bertha's sometimes crass and worldly behaviour, can't help liking her and the two become friends.

But there are dark undercurrents in the novel that culminate in a death and Emmie's eyes are opened to a world of love, passion, deceit and domestic abuse.

This is a hard book to put down, and some memorable incidents stayed with me long after I'd finished reading.

-Ann

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