The Girl From Snowy River
by Jackie French
for ages 13-16
published in 2012 | Harper Collins | 343 pages
Reviewed by Claire Cannon
French's books help to put heart into history. Her characters are so real and warm you can just about feel their pulse; they are people you get to know, and after reading their story a part of them lives on in you.
This third installment of her Matilda Saga narrates an experience of World War I for those left behind. Told through the eyes of seventeen year old Flinty McAlpine, the novel starts with her frustration at not being able to find out what the war was really like.
Then, as we get to know her and her siblings and neighbours, a new and initially surprising element is introduced in the figure of a young man from the future with whom Flinty is able to converse. While a little disconcerting at first, his presence allows some apt comparisons between the attitudes and experiences of the early and later 20th century, and somehow his appearance doesn't feel inconsistent with mountain folklore.
Other staples of French's stories feature here as well: a strong female character whose strength is not merely bestowed by the author but earned through a life of struggle; a wonderful, holistic romance that has its ups and downs but ultimately works everything for the good; and it poses the kind of questions about history that one has always wanted to ask, dealing with it as something real and lived through rather than mere text-book facts.
French has now announced the series will contain six books, spanning from 1894 - 1972. After thoroughly enjoying A Waltz for Matilda, A Rose for the ANZAC Boys, and now The Girl From Snowy River, I'm very much looking forward to the next three.
Clare Cannon is the editor of www.GoodReadingGuide.com and the manager of Portico Books in Sydney.