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4.5 out of 5 stars
24
4.5 out of 5 stars


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4.5 stars.

In a remote outback telegraph station, Comity and her father find their lives turned upside down when Comity's mother suddenly dies. Herbert Pinny sends messages down the wire all over Australia and takes refuge in his work, relying on Comity to inform the family of their new situation. Comity can't bear to tell them the truth. This, along with the new assistant Quartz Hogg will lead to dark and dangerous deeds, as Quartz takes against Comity's aboriginal friend Fred.

This doesn't pull punches with its young readers - death, racism, violence, intolerance, abuse, grief all play a role in Comity's story. She's a strong character, who misses her mother terribly but who tries to keep herself and her father going, tries to do the right thing. Her lies are understandable, even when they escalate.

I found Herbert PInny slightly unrealistic - his treatment of his daughter after losing his wife seems excessively callous, thought Hogg made a beautifully named villain. His story though I would have liked to end differently.

The story takes unexpected turns, changes rapidly from a story of grief, to one of lying to one of violence and its consequences and at the end, another twist brings all these elements together in a moral of tolerance and bravery.

McCaughrean has crafter an intelligent period story that has been recognised with its addition to the Carnegie shortlist.

This is one for ages 9-12, and for those interested in Australia / aboriginal stories.
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VINE VOICEon 27 October 2013
Someone used the word 'dazzling' to describe Geraldine McCaughrean's writing - and it is indeed thus. A girl named Comity - named so by parents who believe in the 'comity of nations' though they live in a telegraph outpost far away from civilization in the Australian outback, alongside racist farmhands. When her mother dies and her father retreats in grief, Comity is left to fend for herself with only Fred, the aborigine boy as an ally. But how can Fred help when he becomes the target of increasingly brutal behaviour by the other characters on the station? Things get worse and worse for Comity and it's hard to guess how she could possibly disentangle her sorry story. The writing is achingly good, the situations sometimes laugh out loud hilarious and other times so distressing you find yourself gasping because it turns out you've been holding your breath without knowing it. How does Geraldine McCaughrean do it? Who cares ... I'm off to read it again.
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on 11 May 2015
A beautifully written exciting story (of course - it's Geraldine McCaughrean) set in a remote telegraph station in the 19th century Australian outback. It's all wonderful - characters, voices, action ... but it's still not knocked The Kite Rider off the top of my favourite of McCaughrean's books, which is why it didn't get a fifth star!
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on 19 March 2014
I bought this book for my 10yr old Granddaughter. After reading it at school she asked if I would buy it for her.
This is the first book she has ever asked for.
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on 12 March 2016
A super inclusion to the Carnegie list. The story certainly has a chilling and gripping start, it gathers pace well while including details of life in Australia. Some background knowledge of Australia would help the reader and an eventual natural companion to this book would be The Singling Line by Alice Thompson from the grown up shelves. I loved this book as the story was well led with its events, which developed well, with all ends being timed well tied up neatly too. Suitable for boy and girl readership. Adults should steal the book away after sleep time so they can read ahead of the children!
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on 30 July 2016
Another of Geraldine McCaughrean's wonderful books. She doesn't write just for children or just for adults. She writes for human beings. I learned a lot about the Australian outback in the nineteenth century and something about human nature too. My adult book group read it on my recommendation and thoroughly enjoyed it. We found a lot to discuss afterwards.
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on 8 November 2013
Made me cry, tender, moving and wonderful. A lovely novel for young readers who like adventure and some real emotion. Sad reminder of Australia's grisly past.
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on 22 February 2014
Really enjoyed this book. Lovely links to aboriginal culture. Will read to my year 6 class as part of our topic
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on 20 May 2015
Good book but off to a really slow start. After around halfway the story starts to pick up. Enjoyed it quite all a lot and would recommend it. :-)
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on 2 May 2015
A touching insight into how Australia developed and how hard life could be in the outback. Really enjoyed this although it's quite sad in places.
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