Saturday 23 December 2023

The Rebels of Mount Buffalo

The Rebels of Mount Buffalo by Dr Helen Edwards (Riveted Press), RRP $16.95 Middle Grade ISBN 9-780645-218077

Reviewed by Susan Hancy

Have you ever wondered about the lives of the pioneers of our national parks? Finding your way through the bush or mountains may be simple enough today by following tracks and signs, but how was it for the early settlers of country Australia in the 19th century who established these trails and had the foresight to preserve these areas? The Rebels of Mount Buffalo takes us back to 1893 and into the lives of the Mansfield family, whose daughter, Alice, was pivotal in the creation of the Mount Buffalo National Park in Victoria. Alice was a rebel of her time, ignoring the conventional expectations of women in the home and establishing herself as both a mountain guide and documenter of the nature of the region. With the help of the local indigenous people, her father, James, forged the route to the top of the mountain that is still used by travellers today.

The Rebels of Mount Buffalo is a story about a fictional character, 13-year-old Clara, who slips back in time from 1998 to 1893 where she encounters the imagined lives of the Mansfield family. In 1998, Clara and her parents are still reeling from the death of her twin brother two years earlier in a car accident. Lacking self-confidence and walking on eggshells between her parents who have since divorced, the trio are having an awkward family holiday at the Mount Buffalo Chalet for the centenary celebrations. When Clara, dressed as a maid in period costume, is alone exploring the display of Guide Alice’s photography, she is transported through time to 1893 via the lens of Alice’s camera. 

Clara awakes to hustle and bustle in the original hotel of the Mansfield family at the foot of the mountain. She passes herself off as newly arrived help, faking her way under the guidance of Alice through the daily laborious duties of cleaning, washing, and cooking without the aid of modern appliances. Worried about how she can return to 1998 and her parents, she confides in Alice that she has travelled through time and naturally Alice doesn’t believe her. But when Clara and Alice get mixed up in a gunfight higher up the mountain between some questionable characters from depression-ravaged Melbourne, Clara puts her resuscitation skills into action. Alice, amazed by Clara’s ability to bring Alice’s brother back to life, comes around to believing Clara’s time travel story and Clara’s confidence grows because of Alice’s admiration. They become close friends and Clara puts her trusts in Guide Alice to find her way home.

The acts of travelling through time via the lens of the camera are symbolic in this story, yet a little too convenient for the plot line. However, this can be overlooked as the prose transports the reader into visualising the beauty of the virgin wilderness of Mount Buffalo and surrounds. It has made me want to visit the area and has certainly sparked my curiosity in Guide Alice.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Buzz Words Books would love to hear what you think.