Captain Jim, by Mary Grant Bruce

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

Captain Jim is the sixth in a series of fifteen books about Norah Linton and her family on their station, Billabong. The series was very popular with girls as they were printed, and has touched generations of Australians and others. Billabong is an isolated cattle station in Northern Victoria in the early 1900s. Having never known her Mother, Norah lives with her Father, David, elder brother, Jim, and their friend, Wally Meadows.

The family is in England during the first world war and Norah has just inherited a large home in Surrey from an Irishman they had adventures with in the previous book. Wally sees that Norah and her Father can somehow use the house to aid the war whilst he and Jim are off fighting.

Norah sets up the house as a home for lonely soldiers on leave and those recovering from injuries. They find people to work with them in the house and on the surrounding farmlet. It is not much later that Jim and Wally return to the front as soldiers again.

Soldiers from Jim and Wally’s regiment are the first guests, including their Major’s family who stays with them for the war’s duration. Australians become frequent visitors, also, including Harry Trevor a friend from the first Billabong book.

After a while, the house is very busy and often full. Norah and David Linton fit into the country life around them, even joining in a spring hunt. It is upon their return from the hunt that the telegram arrives with news of Jim’s death.

This news is a hard blow to Norah and her Father, and keeps Wally from visiting them in his guilt and anguish. Being in the house of soldiers gives them a purpose to continue on and many support them in their grief. Grant finishes the book six months later, at Christmas, with family celebrations including all the house guests.

Captain Jim, by Mary Grant Bruce
Ward, Lock and Co, 1919

Wreck, by Allan Baillie

Reene is glad when the adults go away for the day, leaving her alone at the beach. Well, almost alone. She still has to put up with Ian, who’s a bit of a pain and very wierd. If she can avoid him she’ll be fine.

Busy enjoying her freedom, she doesn’t straight away notice the storm building. By the time she does, she’s back in the house. Ian hasn’t noticed it either, busy watching ants on the move. When the rain starts he runs to join Reene. When the storm hits, they are together. Together they escape the house before it is destroyed by the wind and take shelter in a cave which Ian has found. And when the storm dies, it is together that they embark on a new adventure. A ship has been washed ashore in the bay and Reene wants to expplore. Reluctantly, Ian follows. Both have forgotten that a cyclone has an eye – the calm in the middle of the storm, before it resumes. While they are on board the wreck, the storm renews its attack and they are stuck on the boat, which has come adrift. As wild seas and violent winds try to tear the boat apart, the two become aware of something else – they are not alone on the boat. There is something else there on board with them – stalking them in the dark.

Wreck combines two of Allan Baillie’s favourite elements – the ocean and the finding of personal strength. Both Ian and Reene must tap this strength if they are to survive.

Baillie’s novels are always filled with action and unexpected outcomes. Wreck is no exception.

Wreck, by Allan Baillie
Puffin, 1997