Freedom Ride, by Sue Lawson

Freedom Ride
He smiled at the Aborginal woman. “You were here first.” He swept his hand from her to the counter. “After you.”
My mouth fell open.
The woman peeked at him from under her eyelashes but didn’t move.
“I insist. Ladies first.”
Mrs Dixon clicked her tongue. “Now, Barry. She can’t be served until you and Robbie have been…” She didn’t need to spell it out. White people were served before Aborigines in Walgaree, no matter what.

Robbie knows that Aborginal people are treated differently than white people in Walgaree, but he also knows that this is how it has always been. It;s nothis problem though – he has enough problems of his own. His home life, with a loveless grandmother and a grumpy Dad, is difficult. And his friends are drifting away from him. When he meets Barry, the owner of the local caravan park, he has some chance at happiness. He spends his summer working for Barry, and their friendship grows.

As the summer progresses, it becomes harder and harder for Robbie to ignore the divide between the white citizens and the Aborgines who live in camps outside the town, especially as he gets to know Micky, who has also been employed by Barry. In the meantime, student protestors are preparing to travel trough country towns to protest the treatment of Aborgines, in a Freedom Ride. As they get nearer to Walgaree, tensions rise in the town, and Robbie has to choose his own stance.

Freedom Ride is a wonderful historical novel set in a fictional town but based on real events. Few young Australians will know the tale of the Freedom Rides, but Sue Lawson brings them to life here in a way that will both interest and inform. Robbie’s personal story, as he struggles with an overbearing grandmother, a brooding, distant father, and the msytery of his mother’s death, is also absorbing.

An outsanding young adult read.

Freedom Ride, by Sue LAwson
Black Dog, 2015
ISBN 9781925126365

Available from good bookstores or online.

Summer's Gone, by Charles Hall

I’ve had a long time to think about it; I wish to God I could stop but sometimes, even now, it just happens: I go over and over exactly how it was that Helen came to die, and all that came before, and all that came after. About all the things I might have done, and all the things I might have not done; and all the things other people might have done and not done. Like Mitch, and Alison.

In 1960s Perth, teenager Nick meets three new friends who share his interest in music. Soon, guitarist Mitch has hooked up with one of the girls, Alison, and Nick is keen on her sister, Helen. He thinks she’s interested in him, too, though their relationship is slower to develop. The foursome form a folk group, and are soon popular on the local music scene. But things start to fall apart when Mitch decides to leave the group, and Helen gets called back to Melbourne. Although Nick and Alison join her there soon after, and have what seems to be a bliss-filled summer, tragedy is just around the corner.

Summer’s Gone is a touching, down to earth story of life in the 1960s. Shifting between the events leading up to and surrounding a death, and Nick’s revisitation of key locations many years later, the narrative is cleverly arranged so that the mystery of Helen’s death, revealed on page one, is only gradually made clearer. At the same time,many of the issues of the 1960s – including conscription, sexual liberation, feminism, societal change and worker’s rights – are explored in a way that avoids being issue-heavy. Nick is an entertaining narrator and as he criss-crosses the country, it is a pleasure to travel with him, even in dark times.

Summer’s Gone is an absorbing read.


Summer’s Gone, by Charles Hall
Margaret River Press, 2015
ISBN 9780987561541

Available from good bookstores and online.