DIGGING TO AUSTRALIA by Lesley Glaister

DIGGING TO AUSTRALIA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 In her increasingly interesting work, this English author has intuited some uncomfortable truths about the ``outsider's'' pursuit of the ``ordinary'' (in Honour Thy Father, 1991, a gothicy creeper, as well as in Trick or Treat, 1992). Here, within the pulsing psyche of an adolescent girl--fenced apart, she feels, from the world of her peers--eerie joys and sudden cruelty pierce in and out, and phantoms roam. ``Ordinariness was all that I had ever craved,'' says 12-year- old Jennifer, who can hardly invite anyone over. Bob insists on not wearing clothes (he and Mama are old ``leftists''), TV isn't allowed (gamma rays), and the two are just ``old.'' One day Jennifer decides to dig down to Australia (``the game of a lonely girl''), and, lured by a starving cat instead of a rabbit, she finds a way to a deserted cemetery, a decaying playground, an unholy church sans pews and altar, and then to ``Johnny''--the ferret-faced whistler, working hard with old wood on ``something.'' Like Alice, Jennifer shrinks and expands in perception--the new and exotic loom large, and at home her ``parents'' confess to a lie so terrible that she wants ``to pay them back.'' But later, watching the foolish old couple, she still wants to go back to childhood and certainty, the time before she knew ``the greyness that lay behind everything.'' Armed with the tale of the lumpy, unlikable girl Bronwyn, lipstick, cigarettes, and the tantalizing, bewildering, sexually exciting, dangerous Johnny, ``My life was opening up. Like some exotic flower.'' At the close, Jennifer performs a terrible exorcism. Lies, guilt (``never simple or innocent''), and cruelty flicker on the edge of an adolescent's crazily wavering view of her world and herself--in this mesmerizing tale, again bright with shards of humor, corrosive observation and potent landscapes. A shrewd, efficient, invasive novel--first-rate.

Pub Date: April 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-689-12162-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993




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