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Thursday's Child (Walker world fiction) Paperback – 2 Jan 2002
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"* "Sonya Hartnett, the Australian author of slick, chilly psychological thrillers for teenagers, is at last being published in the UK." The Times Educational Supplement
"A beautiful and complex coming-of-age story." (Booklist)
"Dark, unusual, familiar and slightly miraculous." (Kirkus Reviews)
"A unique and fascinating experience." (School Library Journal) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
A family lives in near poverty after World War I in a forest clearing with poor soil, many children, and few prospects. On the day a new baby arrives, there is an accident and 4-year-old Tin is buried in the earth, feared dead. When he miraculously finds his way back to the surface, it starts his obsessions with tunnelling, and narrator Harper tells us about the subsequent years of hardship - little food, hunger, growing up. Tin now lives underground permanently, his little brother doesn't know him.
Harper narrates the Flute family's trials over the next few years, and how Tin's world delicately tunnels through them.
It's an unusual story, I couldn't see where it was going for a while, the idea of Tin living underground, but it does mesh with Harper's world through the years. Their lives are hard a lot, though the family feeling is there, the love and loyalty. It is a surprise to discover more about Harper's parents later on, and to see just where the plot goes.
Not for the youngest of primary children, there are some more mature themes and also violence and death in these pages. I would recommend ages 12 and above as its intended audience. It may upset.
It's a hard book to classify, Harper grows from a naive girl of 7 to a teenager, seeing death, siblings fall in love, parental conflict, hardship.
For readers who like historical-set stories, family novels, and books with something a little different.
The characters seem real - they are very well crafted - and the plot is involving, too. It reads as an older style book: John Steinbeck, someone compared it to. I don't normally like that sort of thing - I get impatient or feel I can't really relate to it enough - but this was an unexpected jewel. And the ending was unexpected, though completely believable, and hopeful.
Give yourself a good couple of chapters to get into the style and pace of it, and then you will be gripped.
The story is narrated by Harper Flute with the Thursday's Child of the title being her younger brother "Tin James Augustus Barnabas Flute, he was, born on a Thursday and so fated to his wanderings, but we called him Tin for short". Her other siblings are Caffy, her youngest brother and her older brother and sister, Devon and Audrey. Not only are the name choices quirky but so is the fact that Tin becomes a feral child living in a series of subterranean tunnels and that his parents barely bat an eyelid! As Tin merrily excavates his way underground, literally, his parents, meanwhile, stick their heads in metaphorical sand as they blithely go about life, barely eking out a living on their soldier settlement. The father, ex soldier,Court, knows nothing about farming and doesn't seem interested in learning so he hunts rabbits most of the time whilst his family and home degenerate around him. The mother doesn't contribute much either and it seems that Audrey and Harper are the mother figures here with Harper taking the most interest in Tin and his exploits.
This is a novel for Young Adults so I suppose the author can be forgiven for having a certain lack of depth to her characters but I feel it had so much potential as a novel for all ages. Lots of philosophical questions are raised like how small and fragile human beings are when pitted against nature and how, if we're not careful, lethargy can swallow us up just like the earth consumed Tin and others. It's a coming of age story, with moments of brilliance in its deeply lyrical narrative. The overall tone is sadness as the family disintegrates under the weight of grinding poverty. You feel that Harper has grown as a result of all this turmoil but at what cost?
There is an ethereal, mystical quality to Sonya Hartnett's writing which has really impressed me. Part of me wishes the setting could have been more distinct but I guess the indeterminate background serves to highlight the Everyman element of this tale as poverty is universal and doesn't recognise geographical borders! I will most definitely be on the look out for more from this author.
The young narrator watches her impoverished family continue to life in isolation while their neighbours move on. Her strange brother, Tin, burrows tunnels for himself underneath the house, to catastrophic effect. But his path echoes their father's self-imposed refuge; a retreat he beat away from his own Pa's bullying demands.
As the family's troubles worsen, Tin, attempts to leave them behind, literally carving out a new place in his interior world. Far from merely 'digging himself a hole', Tin's route is deliberate, becoming the dynamo at its centre. As a reader we're urged on; we need to know what will become of the Flute family. Despite the arid landscape that serves as its backdrop the prose is lyical and its climax expertly built.
Hartnett says there are those that accuse her work of being too old in its approach or bleak to qualify as children's literature. In her defense she says: "I do not really write for children: I write only for me, and for the few people I hope to please, and I write for the story".
And write the story she does, magnificently.
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