Friday, 16 June 2017

The Blue Cat

The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky (Allen and Unwin) PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781760292294

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

‘“If that cat could speak,” she said, rolling her eyes to the ceiling, “imagine the stories he would tell.”
Personally, I felt I would rather not know.’

The blue cat appeared around town about the same time as Ellery did, according to the narrator, Columba. Ellery is a new child at her school, a European refugee who doesn’t (or doesn’t want to) speak. The blue cat is thought to have come from one of the navy ships at the wharf. Was it tossed overboard, or did it flee? Columba and her next-door-neighbours, who have befriended the cat, can only guess at the cat’s background as they quietly contemplate the atrocities it has probably seen. (‘… His body shakes when he’s asleep with secret anger dark and deep.’)

The mysterious blue cat disappears after hearing the blast of noisy sirens for the practice air raid. Columba bands together with Ellery, and her resourceful classmate Hilda, to search the streets of Sydney. But as the story transcends into a haunting alter-reality, we are left to ponder whether Columba is searching for a blue cat … or whether she’s searching inside herself for the answers to the meaning of the war.

Award-winning Dubosarsky combines her lyrical style with historical documents to tell this fascinating, fairy-tale like story of the friendship between a boy and a girl in Sydney, 1942. Her writing beautifully captures the innocence of children caught up in a war, starkly contrasted, for example, against a documented government order for ‘Enemy Aliens’ or a black and white photograph of Hitler at the Eiffel Tower.

The story targets 10–14 year-olds but will likely appeal to a wider readership, especially lovers of literary historical fiction. This powerful reflection on war will settle quietly in your heart and linger, long after the final page.






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