i am the girl many loves. the girl who writes our story in the book of flying. i am alice.
they sewed me up when I was twelve. mended my broken head with fishbone stitches. tucked my frayed edges in. tucked everything in. things meant to be and things not. do it quick. stem the flow. stop life leaking out of alice. that’s all they wanted. so gram said.
Alice Nightingale is fifteen and longs to be all that fifteen year old can be. But when she was twelve something terrible happened and now when she speaks people can’t understand her – won’t understand her. So she writes instead, poems which she scatters around town – and on the wind.
Manny James, who is alone as Alice, runs at night, trying to escape the memories of his past as he tries to make a new life in Australia. He finds a poem, treasures it, and wonders if it came from the girl he sees sitting on the roof of the house near the river.
The Stars at Oktober Bend is the beautiful, haunting story of two wounded teens who together strive to make sense of themselves and of the world around them. Alice must overcome the troubling events of her past, and the way her family has splintered, while Manny must adapt to life in a new country, the loss of his family and the terrible effects of war. Author Glenda Millard manages to give both characters authentic, wonderful voices.
Poetic, shocking and movingly perfect.
The Stars at Oktober Bend, by Glenda Millard
Allen & Unwin, 2016
Mrs Abdul and the officer stopped in front of me and I stood in respect. She had been angry with me constantly, regularly beat me, but she had never spat words at me like she did then, as if I was a bazaar dog with rabies.
‘This is the girl, officer, who blasphemed the Holy Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him.’
Rabi gave a cry. I couldn’t say a word; I was too shocked.
Aster was named after a girl who had to fight against the persecution of her minority faith. Aster, too, belongs to a to a minority. She is a Christian growing up in Pakistan. When she is given the opportunity for a high school education she plans to study hard to make a difference for herself and for her grieving parents. But not everybody at the school is welcoming, and one teacher dislikes her intensely – because of her faith. Aster tries to keep her head low and study hard to please the teacher, but a mistake in an exam has devastating consequences, when she is accused of blashpemy. Marched out of school by police and thrown in prison, Aster’s predicament escalates rapidly.
The Truth About Peacock Blue is a gripping tale of life for one girl in Pakistan, giving an insight into the predicaments of minority faith groups and indviduals, as well as the rights of women. In prison, Aster meets other women who have been wrongly accused and are harshly treated, left in limbo for lengthy periods of time. Communication with her Australian-based cousin, who runs a blog and starts a petition, allows other perspectives, incuding those of commenters on Maryam’s blog.
Aster’s case is fictional, but mention is made of real life cases including those of Asia Bibi and Malala. As well as being an absorbing story, The Truth About Peacock Blue will also aid in understanding such situations, which can seem far removed from contemporary Australian life.
An important look at social justice and freedom.
The Truth About Peacock Blue, by Rosanne Hawke
Allen & Unwin, 2015