‘Wh…who are you?’ asked Millie, her mouth dry, her heart thumping. ‘What are you doing here?’
The girl stared at her, quiet and mysterious, her dark eyes shining in the dim moonlight. Behind her, Millie thought she could see a shadowy forest of grey-green gum trees and silvery bark. A glimmering river flowed behind her.
‘Are you a ghost or a dream?’ wondered Millie out loud, hugging herself against the pillows.
Millie loves to paint, but when she paints a picture of a girl who appears to her in a dream, it is something special. When her mother takes her and her sister to visit a long-lost aunt in the country, Millie is amazed. The dream girl appears to her again. Could it be that she is somehow connected to the girl?
The River Charm is the story of Oldbury, a colonial estate, and of the Atkinson family, its original owners. In 1839 Charlotte Atkinson, the ghost girl from Millie’s visions, lives in Oldbury with her mother and siblings. Life is difficult. the children’s father has died, and their mother has remarried. their stepfather is a cruel alcoholic, and the entire estate is at risk. Fortunately for the children their mother is determined to keep them safe.
Charlotte Waring Atkinson was the author of the first children’s book published in Australia. This fictionalised account of part of her life is particularly special because it is the work of her great-great-great-great=granddaughter, author Belinda Murrell, whose historical tale makes use of a time slip motif to contrast past and present, as well as making links between the two time periods. Set in the Australian bush, the story will appeal to readers aged 10-14.
The River Charm, by Belinda Murrell
Random House, 2013
Available from good bookstores or here.
You can read more about the writing of this book in Belinda’s blog post here.