#BlogTour #BookReview The White Girl by Tony Birch @RandomTTours

The White Girl BT PosterWelcome to the penultimate day of the blog tour for The White Girl by Tony Birch. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to HarperCollins for my digital review copy.  Do check out the post by my tour buddy for today, bookstagrammer Atomic Books 1976.


The White Girl CoverAbout the Book

Odette Brown has lived her entire life on the fringes of Deane, a small Australian country town. Dark secrets simmer beneath the surface of Deane – secrets that could explain why Odette’s daughter, Lila, left her one-year-old daughter, Sissy, and never came back, or why Sissy has white skin when
her family is Aboriginal.

For thirteen years, Odette has quietly raised her granddaughter without drawing notice from welfare authorities who remove fair-skinned Aboriginal children from their families. But the arrival of a new policeman with cruel eyes and a rigid by-the-book attitude throws the Brown women’s lives off-kilter. It will take all of Odette’s courage and cunning to save Sissy from the authorities, and maybe even lead her to find her daughter.

Bolstered by love, smarts, and the strength of their ancestors, Odette and Sissy are an indomitable
force, handling threats to their family and their own identities with grace and ingenuity, while never
losing hope for themselves and their future.

Format: Paperback (272 pages)    Publisher: HarperVia
Publication date: 28th April 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find The White Girl on Goodreads

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My Review

The White Girl is the first book I’ve read by Tony Birch, an author I had never come across before being invited to participate in this blog tour. However on the strength of this book I’ll definitely be searching out more of his work.

“Trouble? Our people have been in one sort of trouble or another from the first day we set eyes on a white person.” 

I knew vaguely about the discrimination faced by the indigenous people of Australia but the experiences of Odette and her granddaughter gave me a first-hand insight into the daily realities of their lives: enforced segregation, the separation of families, restrictions on freedom of movement and the withholding of the right to citizenship. I found it shocking to think that the sort of discrimination one might associate with the period before the abolition of slavery could still be taking place in Australia in the 1960s.

Alongside the state-sponsored discrimination, Odette and fellow Aboriginal people are subject to racial abuse and threats of violence meaning they need to exercise caution about where they go or what they say, all the time on their guard in case they breach the petty rules governing their lives. Such an environment acts as a kind of shield for those with violent and racist inclinations.

The despicable attitude towards Aboriginal people is exemplified in the character of Sergeant Lowe whose warped sense of superiority (reinforced by the legal framework of the ironically named Aborigines Protection Act) convinces him he has a duty to ‘protect’ the children of indigenous families. ‘He would begin with auditing each of the Aboriginal children under his guardianship with a view to deciding the best outcome for their future welfare.’ That ‘welfare’ includes removing children from their families and placing them in institutions.

Odette is the most wonderful character who demonstrates amazing fortitude and a willingness to put the interests of her granddaughter, Sissy, before her own.  The relationship between Odette and Sissy is lovely too, with Sissy showing an increasing maturity as the book progresses and that she has inherited the sharp wits of her grandmother. I also loved Odette’s friend, Millie Khan, one of the few people who has the courage to confront Lowe. ‘Oh, you’ve looked after the welfare of our young girls for a long time now. Most of them are dead, disappeared or were sent mad by what you did to them in the institutions.’

In the book’s poignant epilogue, we learn just what Odette’s love and determination has achieved but also the tragic consequences of the discrimination meted out to the indigenous people of Australia.

The White Girl is a beautifully written and absolutely enthralling story of unconditional love and courage in the face of adversity.

In three words: Powerful, moving, poignant

Try something similar: A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey

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Tony Birch Author PicAbout the Author

Tony Birch is the author of three novels: the bestselling The White Girl, winner of the 2020 NSW Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing, and shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin literary prize; Ghost River, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing; and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2012. He is also the author of Shadowboxing and four short story collections, Dark As Last Night, Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People; and the poetry collections, Broken Teeth and Whisper Songs. In 2017 he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award for his contribution to Australian literature. Tony Birch is also an activist, historian and essayist.

Connect with Tony
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#BlogTour #BookReview Only May by Carol Lovekin @RandomTTours @honno

Only May BT PosterWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Only May by Carol Lovekin. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and for Honno for my digital review copy.


Only May CoverAbout the Book

I give you fair warning, if you’re planning on lying to me, don’t look me in the eye.

It’s May’s 17th birthday – making the air tingle with a tension she doesn’t fully understand. But she knows her mother and her aunt are being evasive; secrets are being kept.

Like her grandmother before her, May has her own magic: the bees whisper to her as they hover in the garden … the ghosts chatter in the graveyard. And she can’t be fooled by a lie.

She becomes determind to find out what is being kept from her. But when May starts to uncover her own story, she threatens to bring her mother and aunt’s carefully constructed family to the edge of destruction…

Format: Paperback (288 pages)    Publisher: Honno
Publication date: 18th May 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Find Only May on Goodreads

Purchase links
Bookshop.org
Disclosure: If you buy a book via the above link, I may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops

Hive | Amazon UK
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My Review

I was first introduced to Carol Lovekin’s writing when I read her novel Wild Spinning Girls in February 2020.  Like that earlier novel, Only May explores the impact secrets can have on family relationships.

I admired the author’s ability to create atmosphere whether that’s the birdsong-filled woodland that surrounds May’s family’s cottage or the bedroom of Billy, her disabled father. ‘The silence in the room was a void filled with the dust of distress.’ There are some wonderful descriptive passages and striking imagery. ‘Twilight falls, soft as a feather, slow as mist. My day fades, forgets its business and I follow.’ I especially liked the description of May’s hair as ‘ribbon-resistant and reckless’.  Inventive touches include headings signalling breaks in the text being phrases drawn from the passages that follow, for example ‘A curious and singular hotel’ or ‘Peas in a pod’.

May is a young woman with a gift: ‘I’m the one who sees beyond the glint in your eye, around your over-confidence and straight to the truth’. At times it proves useful but sometimes it can seem like a curse, the signs that indicate a falsehood buzzing around in May’s head like a swarm of bees.

All the characters in the book are deftly drawn.  There’s May’s mother, Esme, whose need for routine and obsession with cleanliness is perhaps her way of attempting to maintain control of her life. May’s aunt, Ffion, is the exact opposite. She’s a free spirit who leads a Bohemian lifestyle, living in a caravan at the bottom of the family garden. Her unique style of dress causes May to describe her at one point as ‘a cross between a Russian princess and a lady pirate’. Ffion’s chief influence on May has been to pass on her affinity with the natural world and her belief in folklore.

I was particularly drawn to Billy as a character. The vigorous young man who went off to fight in the Second World War has returned severely physically impaired and suffering from what we would now describe as post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s plagued with nightmares in which he relives the traumatic scenes he witnessed.   I loved Billy’s relationship with May, their quiet companionship and his unconditional love for her. Billy is often silent but when he speaks it’s because it’s something of significance.

The life of the family eventually spins out of control when May’s suspicion there are things being kept from her by her mother, her father and her aunt are proved correct. Suddenly all the snippets of overhead conversations, chance remarks and other clues make sense. Although the nature of the secret may not come as a complete surprise to the reader and could be argued something concealed with the best of intentions, for May it is devastating. After all, she’s the girl who is supposed to have the gift of detecting lies but here is an enormous falsehood that has been hiding in plain sight all along. As she observes, ‘Some gift. A terrible, poisoned, uninvited, wicked fairy benediction. A twisted fairytale turned on its head.’   It forces her to question everything about herself and to wonder if the rift that has been created can ever be repaired.

Only May is a beautifully written, character-led story with a plot that unfolds slowly; it’s not a book to race through but to savour.

In three words: Tender, insightful, lyrical

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Carol Lovekin Author PIcAbout the Author

Carol Lovekin has Irish blood and a Welsh heart. She was born in Warwickshire and has lived in mid Wales since 1979. A feminist, she finds fiction the perfect vehicle for telling women’s collective stories. Her books reflect her love of the landscape and mythology of her adopted home.

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