#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
Website

#WWWWednesday – 25th May 2022

WWWWednesdays

Hosted by Taking on a World of Words, this meme is all about the three Ws:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Why not join in too?  Leave a comment with your link at Taking on a World of Words and then go blog hopping!


Currently reading

Twenty Eight Pounds Final CoverTwenty-Eight Pounds Ten Shillings: A Windrush Story by Tony Fairweather (eARC, HopeRoad Publishing)

After World War Two the call went out to the British Empire for volunteers to help rebuild the ‘Mother Country’. Young men and women from different Caribbean islands were quick to respond, paying the considerable sum of £28.10s to board HMT Empire Windrush – the ‘ship of dreams’ that would take them to their new lives.

The motives and back-stories of these West Indian people is a key part of the Windrush story, one that has never been fully told. This powerful narrative reveals what happened on board that ship, was packed with young, excited people who had never before left their parents, their parishes – let alone their islands. In the course of the memorable two-week voyage there were parties, friendships, fights, gambling, racism, sex – and discussions of God and love.

Portable MagicPortable Magic: A History of Books and their Readers by Emma Smith (Allen Lane)

Most of what we say about books is really about their contents: the rosy nostalgic glow for childhood reading, the lifetime companionship of a much-loved novel. But books are things as well as words, objects in our lives as well as worlds in our heads. And just as we crack their spines, loosen their leaves and write in their margins, so they disrupt and disorder us in turn. All books are, as Stephen King put it, ‘a uniquely portable magic’. In this thrilling new history, Emma Smith shows us why.

Portable Magic unfurls an exciting, iconoclastic and ambitious new story of the book in human hands, exploring when, why and how it acquired its particular hold over humankind. Gathering together a millennium’s worth of pivotal encounters with volumes big and small, Smith compellingly argues that, as much as their contents, it is books’ physical form – their ‘bookhood’ – that lends them their distinctive and sometimes dangerous magic. From the Diamond Sutra to Jilly Cooper’s Riders, to a book made of wrapped slices of cheese, Smith uncovers how this composite artisanal object has, for centuries, embodied and extended relationships between readers, nations, ideologies and cultures, in significant and unpredictable ways. She celebrates the rise of the mass-market paperback, and dismantles the myth that print began with Gutenberg; she reveals how our reading habits have been shaped by American soldiers, and proposes a new definition of a ‘classic’. Ultimately, Smith illuminates the ways in which our relationship with the written word is more reciprocal – and more turbulent – than we tend to imagine: for better or worse, books do not simply reflect humankind, but have also defined who we are, turning us into the readers they would like to have.


Recently finished

Only May by Carol Lovekin (Honno)

The White Girl by Tony Birch (HarperCollins)

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. (Review to follow for blog tour)

Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (Vintage)

Viktor is an aspiring writer with only Misha, his pet penguin, for company. Although he would prefer to write short stories, he earns a living composing obituaries for a newspaper. He longs to see his work published, yet the subjects of his obituaries continue to cling to life. But when he opens the newspaper to see his work in print for the first time, his pride swiftly turns to terror. He and Misha have been drawn into a trap from which there appears to be no escape. (Review to follow)


What Cathy (will) Read Next

Young Women CoverYoung Women by Jessica Moor (eARC, Zaffre)

Everyone’s got that history, I guess. Everyone’s got a story.

When Emily meets the enigmatic and dazzling actress Tamsin, her life changes. Drawn into Tamsin’s world of Soho living, boozy dinners, and cocktails at impossibly expensive bars, Emily’s life shifts from black and white to technicolour and the two women become inseparable. Tamsin is the friend Emily has always longed for; beautiful, fun, intelligent and mysterious and soon Emily is neglecting her previous life – her work assisting vulnerable women, her old friend Lucy – to bask in her glow. But when a bombshell news article about a decades-old sexual assault case breaks, Emily realises that Tamsin has been hiding a secret about her own past. Something that threatens to unravel everything . . .