Thursday, 3 October 2019

The Choke - Sophie Laguna

Aptly titled book for it choked me up and that’s for sure. An Australian novel that has already won an award and appeared on short and long lists of others this is the tale of the endearing Justine born into a world of poverty and neglect blaming herself for being a breech birth and finding a back to front world. If you’re a breech baby, like myself, this will touch you to the core. But alongside poverty Justine experiences violence and oppression that sees her catapulted into an untenable situation that will squeeze your heart.

Beautifully written this writer has burrowed into the very soul of a young girl trying to make sense of the world around her and the people in it, her family, her friends, her teachers, her enemies. The characterisation is so thoroughly convincing you almost feel you want to put the book down to find Justine and help her. She shows remarkable determination and resilience reluctant to lose belief in those adults she feels she should trust. And she is full of love.

Many of the adult characters in the book, especially the males, have issues a plenty which you see Justine struggling to understand. In their own way I guess they try, especially Pop. But it is the younger characters that really resonate.This author seems to have a particular gift for understanding children with, challenges, for want of a better word and without wishing to give anything away. I wanted to hug Michael. 

For those of us far from the antipodean shores and never having visited even this is a palpable portrait of life in the outback. The natural world a supporting player if you will. I felt the heat, the dryness the very ‘Australianess’ of the landscape through the descriptive passages. 

There is a redemption of sorts at the end of the book which I think was most necessary to preserve the wellbeing of the reader! A different outcome would have had me bereft for weeks! There is so much in the book that gets you thinking and worrying about anyone who might be experiencing similar. It’s harrowing in many respects and quite disturbing and whilst showing how accepting children can be of their circumstances when they know no different it does also show the resilience of the human spirit. It is not a feelgood book but it is a book that stays with you and asks you to think. 

Thank you Gallic Press for the opportunity to read this.

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