The Locket of Dreams, by Belinda Murrell

Sophie and Jessica bent over an old photo album looking at faded sepia photographs of bridal veils, orange blossoms, waxed moustaches and babies in christening gowns that swept the floor. Motes of dust danced up from the black pages and floated in the sunlight streaming through the open window.
Jessica wrinkled her nose at the faint smell of aged, dry paper. She brushed her hand over a photo of a young couple laughing up at the camera. The girls’ grandmother, Nonnie, stood beside the antique cedar table pouring tea from a china teapot.

Sophie and her sister, Jessica, are staying with their grandmother, Nonnie, for the school holidays. Their father is out of work and struggling to find another job. Mum’s working more than she wants to and the atmosphere at home has been tense. Nonnie shows them photos of her youth and of their forebears. Charlotte’s story is shrouded in mystery. She came to Australia as a 12 year old, with her sister Nell, apparently cheated of the family wealth in Scotland. Nonnie has inherited a special box with some of Charlotte’s keepsakes, including a heavy gold locket. Sophie is particularly taken with the story and with the gold locket. When she puts it on at night, she seems to slip back in time to 1850’s Scotland, where she hovers over her ancestors and witnesses the changes in their lives.

The Locket of Dreams is set in modern-day Sydney and 1850s Scotland. Sophie is worried about things changing in her world, but nothing could prepare her for the changes experienced by Charlotte and Nell in Scotland. Sophie is drawn into their story, mostly by curiosity about the mystery that surrounds the reasons for their journey to Australia. There are some parallels between the challenges facing the families and Sophie grows in maturity and understanding as she comes to know Charlotte and Nell. Charlotte, as older sister, has to assume responsibility beyond her years, and Sophie grows in admiration for her as she knows more of her story. In the way of time-travelling, Sophie realises that certain events must happen, because she knows them from her life in the present. The Locket of Dreams uses omniscient viewpoint so the reader can ‘hear’ from each of the main characters. Sophie comes to understand the power of family and about what’s really important in life. An engaging read. Recommended for upper-primary readers.

The Locket of Dreams

The Locket of Dreams, Belinda Murrell
Random House 2009
ISBN: 9781741662917

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review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author