Sunday 25 November 2018


Liberty by Nikki McWatters (University of Queensland Press) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN: 9780702260292

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

Born in different eras, three young women share a common bond – the ‘bloodline of the sisterhood’. Jeanne Laisné discovers her ‘blood of iron’ in 1472, when she overcomes her poverty-stricken background to emerge as the heroine of Beauvais during a fierce battle. In 1797, Betsy Gray becomes embroiled in a rebel alliance that is desperate to free Ireland from English rule, and she is determined to fight with every last breath in her body.

Fiona McKechnie’s rustic naivety is destroyed when she heads to university in Brisbane in 1968 and is faced with the realities of the Vietnam War and conscription. When she discovers the Systir Saga, a book containing the names of Jeanne and Betsy, as well as all the other ‘women who were the threads that were sewn together with stitches of time and blood to make up the garment’ that is her, Fiona draws strength from her sisterhood to stand up for what she believes in.

Liberty is aimed at the YA market, and its underlying girl-power message will appeal particularly to teen girls aged 14 and above. Inspired by historical people and events, award-winning author Nikki McWatters takes three discrete story strands and skilfully braids them into a single compelling tale. While some of the dialogue is a little laboured, Nikki’s use of evocative similes and metaphors adds stunning dimension and colour to the narrative.

Passion, action and courage course through the book like the flood of feisty women whom Jeanne leads into battle. As the three protagonists proactively seek liberty in life and love, female readers especially will identify both with their empowerment and with their mantle as girls ‘who might just change the world’.

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