Friday 7 October 2011

Far Rockaway

Far Rockaway by Charlie Fletcher (Hodder/Hachette)
HB RRP $28.99
ISBN 978 0 340 99732 1
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

Cat Manno and her brother Joe are devoted to their grandfather, Victor Manno who encouraged a love of reading by giving Cat old classics for Christmas and birthdays, but Cat wasn't really interested until Victor visited each summer and read the novels out loud. Suddenly Kidnapped, The Last of the Mohicans and Treasure Island are transformed in a far more lively way than the old-fashioned style in which they are written. When the children visited Victor in New York he took them to museums by subway train, and said that one day they should all go to the end of the line to Far Rockaway. It hasn’t happened yet.

But now the children are a lot older, Joe has become independent and when Cat and her parents next arrive in New York she finds Joe has already visited Far Rockaway on a gig with his band. Cat is upset as she thought Joe, Victor and herself would go together. She is also worried about a lie she told Victor, that she had read The Three Musketeers, his latest gift. She tries unsuccessfully to get out of going to Far Rockaway by train with Victor because she knows she will be found out when she can’t talk about the characters in the story. A trip has been arranged for the following day.

While walking in the city, the troubled Cat lags behind her parents and Victor and tries to contact Joe on her smart-phone. When there is no answer, Cat decides now would be a good time to Google The Three Musketeers to learn about Milady, a character in the story whom Victor has mentioned. Concentrating, she steps off the kerb and into the path of a fire truck. Victor leaps to push her out of the way, but they are both mown down and taken to hospital. Cat is in a critical condition with head injuries, and her grandfather’s legs and chest have been crushed.

Cat enters another world where she has to fight for her life and that of Victor against the evil Magua, and is helped by Chingachook, characters in The Last of the Mohicans. Her battle is fought on parallel lines to what is happening to her in hospital. Each time she overcomes, her condition also improves, and when she is in deep trouble, complications threaten in the natural world, as she fights for her life. Cat’s other-world battles continue alongside the heroes and villains of the rest of the classics read by her grandfather.

It isn’t until Cat faces her arch enemy, the Magua, and saves herself, rather than relying on help, that her battle is over. The result is reflected in real life and the hospital team know that she will recover. Much later, in memory of Victor, Cat and Joe at last travel to Far Rockaway together.

I found this 400+ page book challenging. It is extremely detailed, with many facets which make it a complicated read. Despite the story having a courageous female protagonist, it is essentially a very masculine, swashbuckling tale in part, and the reality side depicting a hospital operating emergency and treatment is bluntly expressed. Will girls love it? I’m not sure. Nevertheless, Far Rockaway is a first-rate adventure, with plenty of gripping moments and imaginative escapades. The loss of Victor is handled well. Determined readers of both genders should find this novel well worth the effort.


  1. Great review. Thanks

  2. Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for dropping by Buzz Words Books and leaving a comment. I hope you enjoy the other reviews, too.


  3. Jeesh, love the blog but this is really a synopsis/ high school book report instead of the review it claims to be. Maybe putting a 'Chock full o'Spoilers' Alert at the head of reviews that give the entire plot away might be a graceful thing? Keep up the good work.

  4. Tricky to keep everyone happy. Some people love a synopsis style review - others not. Good idea about the 'Spoiler Alert'. Vicki


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