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Wednesday, 1 March 2017
The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat
This review was first published here.
What we thought: In 1970s Australia eleven-year-old Tanya Randall is growing up in a family which always seems to be at odds with itself. Her mother is not quite functioning on all cylinders, her father spends too much time and too much money in local bars and even the curmudgeonly Nanna Purvis does little to help to relieve the stress that Tanya faces.
Bullied at school for her weight problem and her friendship with the 'foreign' girl, Angela, Tanya seems to be forever just one step out of step with both her family and her peers. The arrival of Shelley, her sickly baby sister, does nothing to help relieve the unrelenting unhappiness of Tanya's life. The only bright spot is Tanya's clandestine meetings with someone who may bring even more problems into her already troubled life.
What then follows is a tightly plotted psychological thriller which induces all the languor and the heat of a blisteringly hot Australian summer. The image of a sad and lonely adolescent is beautifully described as is the waywardness and emptiness of a family who are damaged irreparably by the events which unfold during this time.
The Silent Kookaburra is a real departure for this author whose previous novels include the excellent historical Bone Angel series and as a huge fan of that series I wasn’t sure whether I would be disappointed by the author’s change of direction. I’m pleased to say that I was hugely impressed by this novel. Throughout the story the psychological tension is palpable as is Tanya’s involvement in the unfolding events of which she is too inexperienced to fully understand.
The writing is flawless and only someone who has a deep affinity for this part of Australia can write with such descriptive assurance. Time and place came completely to life for me; I could hear the ‘Garooagarooagaroo’ cackle of the kookaburra and could smell the sweet scented jasmine that whispered in the slight breeze above the gum tree where baby Shelley lay whingeing in her pram.
But most of all I fell in love with Tanya, naïve, unsophisticated and yet with a wisdom that belied her tender years, all I wanted was for her to find some sort of peaceful resolution to counterbalance the horror of what was being thrown at her by her dysfunctional family life.
The Silent Kookaburra is a tight and tense family drama which engages the reader’s attention from start to finish, and which bears all the hallmarks of this talented author’s fine attention to detail and natural story telling ability.
You’ll like this if you enjoy: Complex family dramas, warm Australian sunshine and characters that get right into your heart and soul.
Avoid if you don't like: Stories about emotive and complicated family issues.
Ideal accompaniments: Vegemite sandwiches and an endless supply of tea.
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Available on Amazon