I may not have lost my legs, she thought, but I’ve lost those I love forever. The war had savaged Mum, and Mrs Mack, and every woman in the valley. The war was over but the pain was still there, for her and the families left behind, not just for the men who had been maimed.
We’re all bits that the war didn’t take, Flinty thought, gazing at the stranger’s back. But those left behind had a right to know more about the beast who’d chewed their lives and spat the remnants out.
It is 1919, and in the Snowy Mountains Flinty McAlpine is trying to hold her family together – what is left of her family, at least, since the Great War tore it apart. One of her brothers was killed in the war, and another is so scarred that he seems unable to stay at home. Her mother died, Flinty suspects of a broken heart, and her father too passed away, after contracting influenza brought home by returning troops. Flinty may be only 17, but she is now responsible for her two younger siblings and for the running of the farm and the paying of the bills.
When Flinty meets a stranger in a wheelchair, she presumes he is another returned soldier – and he is – but somehow he is not from the Great War, but from a war far in her future, the Vietnam War. Just like Flinty’s brother, and Sandy, the man she loves, Nicholas is scarred by his war time experiences. They may be from different times, but somehow Flinty and Nicholas can see and hear each other, and it may be that they can help each other to heal.
The Girl from Snowy River is a dramatic, heart warming story of survival. Flinty is faced with many challenges – the loss of her parents and brother, her strained relationship with Sandy, the financial stress of trying to keep hold of the family farm, and being a girl in a man’s world – but she also faces unexpected physical challenges, too.
With reference and links to several famous Australian bush poems, The Girl from Snowy River is a wonderful celebration of the Snowy Mountain region as well as an exploration of the history of the time and issues of the impact of war, the role of women, family relationships and more.
The Girl from Snowy River, by Jackie French
Angus & Robertson, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2012
Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.