Author: Liza Perrat
Kindle Edition Published October 2018
Category: Fiction based on fact, 1970’s, Australia, Family Drama, Book Review
The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.
Reflecting the social changes of 1970s Australia, The Swooping Magpie is a chilling psychological tale of love, loss and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.
Lindsay Townsend, a pretty and popular sixteen year old, has set her sights on Jon Halliwell, the P.E. teacher at her school, regardless of the fact he is married.
Although she is the daughter of wealthy parents, Lindsay’s home life leaves much to be desired. Her father is a controlling bully who thinks nothing of physical or verbal abuse and his long suffering wife has been cowed into submission. Despite her seeming popularity, Lindsay is vulnerable, lonely and desperate for affection. When her interest in Jon is reciprocated, it develops into a secretive affair.
Naively, Lindsay dreams of a future with Jon but is brought down to earth when her life changes drastically. She has no control over the events which overtake her and is forced into a hopeless situation no-one should have to endure, especially in the so called liberated world of the 1970s.
A sheaf of needles jabbing my face, one arm, wakes me.
I force open my eyes, lids so heavy they just want to drop closed again, struggle up from where I’m lying. Where am I lying? I go to rub away the needle stings, but my left arm is dead.
What’s happened to me? Where am I?
Too sleepy to keep my eyes open, I surrender, plunge into darkness again.
The story is narrated in the first person from Lindsay’s perspective and Liza Perrat captures the plight of girls in the same circumstances exceptionally well, the detailed research bringing it all to vivid, if sometimes horrific, life. Their shared experience forced the girls, who all had tragic backgrounds, to grow up quickly and they forged lasting friendships.
The Swooping Magpie is a fictional story based on fact. It’s hard to imagine the forced incarceration and cruelty young unmarried girls, who found themselves pregnant, suffered. The circumstances of the pregnancy didn’t matter, the girls had disgraced their families, sometimes through no fault of their own, and were ostracised. No thought or compassion for the trauma suffered was forthcoming and they were told in no uncertain terms to forget it and get on with their lives. In most cases the pain of loss and regret never left them. It’s also incredible, though not totally unexpected, that the perpetrators of the scandalous conduct meted out to the girls at every level, including the parents, never had to answer for their actions.
A wonderfully written, moving and compelling story with unexpected, sometimes devastating, twists as we follow Lindsay’s journey into adulthood. The characters are realistically drawn and although Lindsay is preoccupied with her own feelings initially, regardless of anyone else, she becomes more sympathetic and likeable as the story unfolds to its satisfying conclusion.
As always, Liza Perrat has created evocative imagery of time and place, including social issues, wildlife, music and decor. And, although this is the second book in the 1970s Australian drama series, like The Silent Kookaburra it is a stand alone novel.
I chose to read and review The Swooping Magpie for Rosie Amber’s book review team, based on a digital copy from the author.
About the Author
Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.
When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her family for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist.
Since completing a creative writing course ten years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine, France Today and The Good Life France.