The River and the Book by Alison Croggon (Walker books)
PB RRP $ 16.95
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis
Any book by this versatile Australian author is always a journey through unknown territory. Her poetic language and ability to build images with words always leaves me in awe. She’s like an architect that seeks to create something new and challenging each time she puts words together.
In this fable blended with mysticism and fantasy, we meet Sim. Turning fifteen years old, she has become all that was waiting for her. The greatest thing is becoming an Effender, a Keeper of the Book which holds the history of her people and their place. It tells of their past, present and future, and has answers for all questions that are asked of it. The content changes constantly. How this happens is unknown. Although the Book is the village people’s oracle, it can’t prepare them for what is to come.
First the level of the River that has been their life force for generations, begins to recede, sucked away by the channelling of water further north by invaders and developers who plundered the land to plant cotton for massive returns.
Then Jane Watson arrives to photograph and write about their remote village and ancient lifestyle. Nothing is ever the same again for Sim. Jane steals the Book, and with the Book gone, life is meaningless to Sim. She sets out on her first journey away from home to get the Book back and regain her lost place in life. She tells her story of that journey, what it cost her, and the things she gained from it.
The powerful prose in this imaginative novel is scintillating. Strong underlying themes on Human Rights, destruction of the landscape through greed, and countless other current issues are woven into this magnificent piece of work. Alison Croggan as always is impressive and thought-provoking with another outstanding piece of work for young adult (and adult) readers that should not to be missed.