Flying through Clouds by Michelle Morgan (self-published)
PB RRP $18.99 ISBN 9780995386501
Reviewed by Bill Condon
Flying through the Clouds takes readers on an entertaining ride with 14-year-old, Joe Riley, a boy who author Michelle Morgan first introduced in her successful 2014 novel Racing the Moon (Allen & Unwin). Joe is a rebellious lad with an impetuous streak that often lands him in trouble, but Morgan skillfully counterbalances this with glimpses into his inner thoughts that show him to be good-natured.
The book is set in Australia during the early 1930s when the country was in the throes of the Great Depression. However, Joe’s mother and sister have plenty of sewing work to do, and his father is an illegal bookie and debt collector. Unlike much of the population, the Riley family doesn’t appear to be too unfavorably affected by the Depression. This isn’t a criticism of the author. No doubt there were those who coped with adversity better than others, and it could be said that it’s to Morgan’s credit that she took a less obvious approach than other Depression stories have taken.
Joe’s dad is a hard man, who is quick to discipline his sons with a strap, or a backhander. He is also a heavy drinker. Not, it would seem, an ideal father, but once again Morgan manages to show his good side, and it’s great to see that, as in life, the characters in Flying through Clouds have positive aspects, as well as negative ones.
Morgan has done a brilliant job in researching this era. Fact after fact comes tumbling out, but none are boringly presented; instead they are seamlessly woven into the narrative. Through the course of the book Joe joins the Boy Scouts and takes a flying lesson, his first step to becoming an aviator, just like his hero Charles Kingsford Smith (Smithy). As Joe learns, so does the reader; in-depth knowledge about the Scouts and flying add an extra layer of reality to Joe’s often daring escapades.
I enjoyed this story. It was well-written and believable, and Joe is a very likeable character. Read it for its accurate depiction of Depression-era Sydney. Read it for a rattling good story; it’s highly recommended.
Flying through Clouds can be ordered from bookshops and educational and library suppliers from 2 April or from www.michellejmorgan.com.au
Bill Condon’s latest novel is All Of Us Together (About Kids Books, 2016).