Diary of Miss Florence Adelaide Williamson, 16 July 1868
This is the last page of my diary and after I have written this, I will hide it. I don’t want to remember this day ever again. My big sister Lizzie died tonight. They say it was from fever so my papa and some of the men ar burying her right now, even though it is dark and cold.
I heard Papa tell the men to dig the grave extra deep and tomorrow they will cover it with piles of rocks. They save fever is catching so we cannot even wait for a doctor to come, or have a minister to hold a proper funeral service. It was so quick. Lizzie was perfectly well this morning.
Florence’s sister Lizzie has died suddenly and is buried without ceremony and with haste. There is not time for a funeral apparently, no time for anything. Florence is not sure what is going on but she knows it’s bad. Susannah is Lizzie’s best friend hears of her death and is immediately sceptical that fever is the cause of her friend’s death. These alternate viewpoints tell the story of the ripples from this unexpected and tragic death. When Susannah takes on the role of governess to the precocious Florence, the pair work to unravel the mystery of Lizzie’s death. Photos of the main characters accompany their entries/letters.
Midnight Burial is told in diary entries letters by Florence and via letters from Susannah and other characters. Reading between the lines of the diary entries, the reader discovers some of the challenges for girls born in early Australia. These challenges are made perhaps more intense by the remoteness of their sheep station home, and the expectations that come with wealth and education. Notes at the end of ‘Midnight Burial’ tell how a factual story in the National Library inspired this fiction. Extra photos and notes provide information about sheep stations, convicts and more. They also reveal the real identities of the girls whose photos appear. History is a huge cumbersome and confusing beast. Stories like Midnight Burial offer a way in to history for young readers. They allow the reader to step inside, feel, smell and understand a life so different from their own. Recommended for mid-primary readers.
Midnight Burial, Pauline Deeves NLA 2014 ISBN: 9780642278500
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller