Tuesday 23 November 2010

Dame Nellie Melba

Dame Nellie Melba by Gabiann Marin, illustrated by Rae Dale (New Frontier Publishing)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781921042645
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Dame Nellie Melba is the first title in the new Aussie Heroes series for younger readers. this is a fictionalised account of the life of Helen Porter, who became one of the greatest operatic singers the world has seen in Nellie Melba having taken on the moniker of Melba in deference to her love for her hometown.

In child-friendly language, this book explores Melba's family relationships particularly that with her father David Mitchell. In an era when society's only expectation for women was that they married and bore children, and that singing was considered a lowly profession, the strength of Nellie's character shines through. Nellie was an exceptionally talented singer but she needed more than that to succeed. She needed a strong will, courage and determination.

And she needed plenty of it. Another obstacle thrown in her way was the snobbery of the British and Europeans towards a 'colonial', including it seems Arthur Sullivan of he prominent musical duo Gilbert and Sullivan. It was also interesting to see that Australians suffered from tall poppy syndrome in colonial and federation times! While Nellie Melba was single-minded in pursuit of her career she was not self-absorbed. During World War One she worked tirelessly, holding fundraising concerts and entertaining troops.

Colourful illustrations are liberally sprinkled throughout to break up the text. A time line of Nellie Melba's life is also included at the end. A further three books in the series are due to be released in 2011: Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop, Fred Hollows and Mary MacKillop.

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