When and where is the correct beginning for this retelling? Already I wonder. there are many choices:
I was born in 1929 in the Bavarian town of Bamberg –
Once upon a time there was an Old Man who owned a music shop –
What makes an artist become a tyrant and murderer –
none of these. We must begin with my father.
The son of a Jewish academic who has always loved Germany, Rafael Ullmann’s childhood is confrtable until Hitler’s restrictions start to take effect. When he and his family are sent to a concentration camp, life becomes little more than a battle for survival. As a musician, the boy has something to offer the Germans, though the price is high.
In remote Canada in the 1970s, Annie Ullmann grows up as a sheltered only child. Her parents don’t talk of their past, and Annie never asks, content with her quiet life, until a friendship with a hawk makes her wonder if there is a life further afield.
In contemporary Australia, Joe Hawker doesn’t know what he wants to do with his future. he has a talent for music, but no real passion, until he discovers a song written by his grandfather.
This is My Song is a multi-generational story of the impact of the most terrible war-time events, and of the importance of music as a form of solace and connection. The story of Rafael is particularly heart-wrenching, and the motif of music and song as a connection across the three generations is powerful.
A moving, important story.
This is My Song , by Richard Yaxley
This is my nightmare. Sure, there are any number of planks in the rickety suspension bridge of our trip that could give out and send us plummeting – the flight, the road trips to Okanagan Lake and Seattle. Foreign places, foreign people. Foreign everything. And, of course, The Appointment and all of the question marks it entails. But to go wrong here? Here? At the airport? On the list of places you’d want to avoid acting out of the ordinary, the airport would rank number one with a bullet. Or maybe a taser.
Nineteen year old twins Justine and Perry have had a tough few years. Their beloved dad has died after a battle with cancer, and they are on their own. Now, as they plan to part ways for the first time in their lives, they are taking a trip together. But travelling is complicated, because Perry is autistic, and doesn’t always cope well with change. Justine has always looked after him, but there are times when even she finds it hard to get through to Perry. From their arrival at the airport she is faced with challenges, but only she knows that in Canada they are going to face what could be their biggest challenge of all.
Are You Seeing Me? is a beautiful young adult novel, dealing with themes of disability, family, loyalty and change. While it is Perry who seemingly has the hardest time dealing with change, Justine too has lessons to learn about trust and about caring for herself, even about her brother. Their journey is both physical and metaphoric, and readers will enjoy seeing the sights through Perry’s eyes, as his fascination with earthquakes, mythical sea-creatures and Jackie Chan dictate their touring schedule.
Using the alternate viewpoints of Justine and Perry, each with their own unique voice and take on the world, Are You Seeing Me? is funny, sad and touching in equal measure.
Are You Seeing Me?, by Darren Groth
Woolshed Press, 2014
Available from good bookstores and online.