Tuesday, 14 July 2015

1931 Tough Times

1931 Tough Times by S. Mitchell (Puffin Books)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9789143398910

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

If you’re a child aged 8 to 12 years who wonders what it would have been like to live in Australian during the 1930’s Depression, this is the book for you. The historically fictional story, part of the Do You Dare series, is set in Melbourne where Tom Parker and his mates, the Daredevils, enjoy playing cricket in the Fitzroy alleyways. Tom’s Dad, who works in a boot factory, loses his job which has everyone worried as employment lines are long and work is scarce. Dad invests the last of his money – the rent money – on Phar Lap, racing in the Melbourne Cup, but unfortunately this is a race in which the great horse is unplaced. This losing bet places the family is peril as the rent man threatens to evict them. On top of this, Dad gets drunk and then there’s no money at all. A determined Tom feels it is up to him to find the ten pound that’s needed to save the family. For this, he decides he needs the help of his mates and the family dog, Fungus.

Tough Times is an appropriate title for this novel that manages to capture the spirit of the 1930s. Historical details ring true so the reader becomes immersed in a world where people suffer through adversity but do so with hope and hard work. Tom’s hopes hinge on Fungus being successful in a competition offered by MacPherson Robertson (of chocolate fame and one of the richest men at the time in Australia).

Time and again there are exciting action scenes where cheerful characters and not-so-likable ones, interact with one another. The themes of friendship, loyalty, self-belief and hope are woven into a story which rings true, a time in Australia’s history that helped to establish the nation’s character. Boys in particular are sure to enjoy this uplifting, engaging and past-paced yarn.

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