Eloise floated on a sea of red and orange swirls. Dazzling golden threads shimmered through the cloth, the tiny fish embroidered on Mum’s favourite skirt. Mum’s arms were around her and Mum was singing softly.
…and little fishes, way down below, wiggle their tails, and away they go…
She was falling asleep on Mum’s lap, safe and warm, wrapped in the billows of her skirt. The red and gold and purple of memory enfolded her and floated her away.’ ‘Wake up, El for Leather!’
Eloise’s eyes sprung open, and she struggled upright. A sheet of white light flashed from the rear window of the car in front, blinding her. She shut her eyes again and watched a dark shape drift down the inside of her eyelids, then jump up again, over and over, endlessly receding but never quite fading away.
Twelve-year-old Eloise has been silent for the last two years, since her mother died in a car accident. Her father concocts grand schemes that never seem to pan out, just like the girlfriends that never last. Eloise and Dad have moved many times in the past two years. This time they are moving to Turner, the town where Dad grew up. Dad has plans to turn the house his mother grew up in into a convention centre. Mo, his mother and Eloise’s grandmother lives in a little house in town. She is trapped inside her house, too scared to leave. Tommy, the boy next door does her shopping. Mo and Dad are only recently speaking to each other after a fight five years earlier. Dad dumps Eloise with the grandmother she hardly knows and disappears back to the city in search of finance for his latest grand plan. Eloise is fascinated by the big old house, and Mo seems happy for her to find her own entertainment. Then Eloise meets a girl in the old summerhouse, a girl just younger than her. Mo says the family has a history of running away from their problems. This summer, Eloise must face hers.
Cicada Summer is a story of the different ways people respond to trauma. First there is Eloise, who in response to her mother’s death, has simply ceased speaking. She expresses herself in her drawing. Eloise’s Dad races furiously into the future, meeting and discarding girlfriends frequently, never stopping to examine what’s important in his life. Mo has become so accustomed to living within the four walls of her house, that she is as prickly as a cactus. The Durranis next door have fled Afganistan and are working to establish a new life. Linking them is a rundown old house. Eloise struggles to understand the mystery surrounding the house. In doing this, she comes to understand herself a little, and helps her father and grandmother address their own issues and behaviours. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.
Cicada SummerKate Constable
Allen & Unwin 2009
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This book is available online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.