Saturday 19 November 2016

When the Lyrebird Calls

When the Lyrebird Calls by Kim Kane (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $16.99ISBN 9781741758528 

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

 While cleaning out an old cupboard at her grandmother’s house, Madeleine discovers a secret compartment with some antique items. Her grandmother, Mum Crum, suggests she take them to the local museum (Lyrebird Muse), an old mansion that once belonged to the wealthy and powerful Williamson family.
 Mum Crum explains how lyrebirds mimic sounds and teach their offspring to replicate them, thereby making these precious birds ‘keepers of our history’. Little does Madeleine know that when she hears a lyrebird’s call at the museum, that very afternoon, she’ll be transported back in time to the year 1900 (around six months before Federation). Until she can figure out how to get home, Madeleine needs to somehow unassumingly fit into a world where women are powerless and unable to vote, where Aboriginal people are mistreated and racism is rampant and where children are ignored or viewed as unimportant.
 The story is mostly set in country Victoria, with a few scenes around Melbourne and its inner suburbs. Women’s suffrage is a key historical theme in the book and so most characters are, aptly, female. There are the four Williamson girls (Bea, Gert, Charlie and Imogen), their mother (Bella), Elfriede (their mother’s cousin), Nanny, Aunt Hen and Anna. Through Madeleine’s eyes we get a fascinating understanding of feminism in 1900. Most of the women conform to their expected role, but some prefer to challenge it.
 Fans of Playing Beatie Bow will enjoy this historical time travel story, targeted to readers aged between 10–13 years. Madeleine’s story is a little different to that of Abigail Kirk in that she does not undertake a major personal journey of self. Instead, despite the challenges of acting ladylike, hiding her sporting skills and having to manage a dreaded corset, Madeleine’s steadfast character remains a comforting modern-day contrast to the girls of 1900. This allows the author to highlight the significance of this important historical era.
 Kim Kane, award-winning author of Pip: The Story of Olive, has delivered another great story with writing that is fluid and easy to read. The characters are strong and likeable and there’s even an unpredictable plot twist. It’s a novel that can be enjoyed and read over and over again!

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