- Author: Liza Perrat
- Published: January 2017 by Perrat Publishing
- Category: Psychological, Family Drama, Historical, Fiction, Book Review
All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall wants is a happy family. But Mum does nothing besides housework, Dad’s always down the pub and Nanna Purvis moans at everyone except her dog. Then Shelley arrives –– the miracle baby who fuses the Randall family in love for their little gumnut blossom.
The story opens with Tanya packing up her parents’ home after their deaths. An old newspaper cutting her grandmother saved brings memories rushing back and, despite her uneasiness and resistance, pulls Tanya back to the sweltering summer of 1973 and her eleven year old self.
The story is narrated from Tanya’s perspective in the third person. She is overjoyed at the birth of her baby sister, after multiple miscarriages suffered by her mother. The family, along with Nanna Purvis, live in Gumtree Cottage, Wollongong, a small town in New South Wales.
Gumtree Cottage is thought to be cursed because it was built by ex convicts with blood money, but with Shelley’s arrival Tanya hopes their little family can be happy and content at last. However, Shelley is a difficult baby, colicky and distressed, her continual crying shredding nerves until family life eventually disintegrates. Tanya’s mother retreats into a world of her own, her father spends most of his spare time at the pub and Nanny Purvis isn’t much help, so it’s left to Tanya to try and keep things together. Not full of confidence to begin with, her lack of self-esteem drops further as she enters a vicious circle of comfort eating and hating herself and her weight, intensified by the constant bullying from her peers. Tanya is ripe for someone dangerous and unscrupulous to take advantage.
I reached my special place in a clearing, sat on my flat rock in the flimsy bush shade and pulled Real Life Crime from the Indian bag. Steely started sniffing around.
I was so engrossed reading the story about the Faraday School kidnappings in Victoria, when two kidnappers took a teacher and her six pupils for a one-million-dollar ransom, that I didn’t notice the man approaching me.
A shadow blackened the page. My heart somersaulted in my chest and I leapt to my feet. Real Life Crime slid to the ground.
I gripped Steely’s leash and stared up at the tall, thin man with dark curly hair and eyebrows to match.
Written extremely well with wonderful, distinct characterisations and incredible imagery, this is a poignant story driven by cause and effect, the characters’ reactions completely convincing. Dealing with sensitive subjects, abuse, post natal depression and grooming amongst others, it’s sometimes difficult to see things through Tanya’s eyes. There’s so much she doesn’t yet understand or isn’t able to express but the reader can see where certain situations are heading, sharpening the suspense and the sense of danger, while dread of the likely end result builds.
It wasn’t hard to become immersed in the story, the sense of time and place is intense and the mindset and attitudes along with dialogue are completely believable. I love Nanna Purvis’ hilarious misuse of words and strongly held opinions.
One unanswered question has haunted Tanya ever since that summer. The narrative ends where it began, with Tanya at her parents’ house as the story comes to a completely unexpected and shattering conclusion. Liza Perrat’s descriptive, assured prose and story telling skills make this a compelling and evocative read.
I chose to read and review The Silent Kookaburra based on a digital copy of the book supplied by the author/publisher.
About Liza Perrat
Liza grew up in Australia, working as a general nurse and midwife. She has now been living in France for over twenty years, where she works as a part-time medical translator and a novelist. She is the author of the historical The Bone Angel series. The first, Spirit of Lost Angels is set in 18th century revolutionary France. The second, Wolfsangelis set during the WW2 Nazi Occupation and the French Resistance, and the third novel – Blood Rose Angel –– is set during the 14thcentury Black Plague years.
Her latest novel, The Silent Kookaburra, is a psychological suspense, set in 1970s Australia.
Liza is a co-founder and member of the writers’ collective Triskele Books.
Liza reviews books for Bookmuse.