Saturday, 17 September 2011

Crow Country

Crow Country by Kate Constable (Allen & Unwin)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-74237-395-9
Reviewed by Thalia Kalkipsakis

‘The night belonged to the ancient, nameless gods, to silent spirits, to Waa and Bunjil and all the others. Sadie dug into the earth, she made a hole in the body of the land, and as she dug, she whispered, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’

New to Boort, Sadie is resentful of having been dragged to a country town by her mother. Her sense of belonging isn’t helped when she discovers an ancient stone circle and is told by a crow: ‘This is Crow’s place.’

And so begins a series of encounters between Sadie and the cryptic Crow. It hints at a Law that has been broken and sends her time-slipping backwards in time to the death of an aboriginal man who had desperately been defending a sacred place, as well as the cover-up by her great-grandfather.

In between her visits back in time, Sadie’s relationships develop in the present. Walter is an aboriginal boy with a troubled past and Lachie is a descendant of the perpetrator of the crime long ago. There is a sense of righting past wrongs, but also a warning from Crow of repeating history.

Constable has effectively distilled bigger themes into a story that, while shameful and disturbing, also offers hope for the future. Issues such as land ownership, abuse of power and most tellingly, the implications of being part of the cover-up of a crime, are handled with an even hand and understanding. Constable’s background in law is evident, as is her level of care and consultation in terms of Indigenous lore.

Crow Country is aimed at children aged nine to thirteen and is accessible on many levels. The characters and sense of place are vividly and enjoyably Australian. The time slip moments are believable and evocative to the point where this reviewer was hungry for more. It is an important book, one that has the potential to ground its readers, connecting us, as Sadie comes to be, with our country and our collective history.

Thalia’s latest book is called Head Spinners: six stories to twist your brain ( 

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