Friday, May 27, 2011

A Waltz For Matilda by Jackie French

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 729 KB
Publisher: HarperCollinsAU (December 1, 2010)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English

First Sentence "It was midnight in Grinder's Alley".

A Waltz For Matilda is set in the late 1800’s in Australia’s outback and tells the tale of a young girl called Matilda who after loosing everything she knows and loves in the city, heads out to “beyond the black stump” to find her missing father. There she has to grow up fast and learn the ways of the bush and its people to survive.

The start of the book was strongly tied into the song Waltzing Matilda, and the song has a presence through out the book. I liked this tie in which worked well with the story.

Matilda was a wonderful character who we meet at the age of 12. The book follows her life on the station and how she grows and evolves living there. Auntie Love is a lovely character that takes Matilda under her wing and shows her the way of the bush. I liked Jackie French’s treatment of the Aboriginal characters and culture, you got a distinct impression that French respects the culture. There was nothing clich├ęd about the characters at all.

Her friendship with Mr Drinkwater was an interesting one. It seemed to be a love hate relationship at best. But there seemed to be genuine respect for each other. What I found interesting, having recently been at a workshop run by Jackie, was the shearers themselves. Jacki said in her workshop she had originally planned for them to be the bad guys, but by the end of the story they were the comedy relief. Certainly the shearers were a funny bunch with interesting names like Mr Goto, they always floated around the sidelines supporting Matilda when she needed it.

This book covers some very important historical moments for Australia. The formation of the labour union movement, the fight for women to vote, the fight to become one nation instead of separate colonies, and the Boer War. This is not an actual retelling and the facts are not accurate, the events are just a back drop to the main story which was a girl struggling to survive in the bush. She captured the essence of the events and was able to tell them from the point of view of a teenage girl living on a farm in the middle of no where.

There are also some very serious issues that get touched on in this book such as immigration, racism, sexism, class differences, and technological advancement. I found it very interesting that the very thing that immigrants get accused of now in this modern day and age, such as stealing jobs; was the exact same stuff that was being said in the late 1800’s. It made me wonder just a little if we really had progressed as a society as much as we like to think.

Jackie French was very careful to not mention any dates, places, times etc. She did this deliberately as she was not writing a novel based on these events. She was writing a novel about a girl who witnessed these events.

This would be a wonderful book for a teenager to read and gain a solid insight into Australia’s history. While it wont give the reader the nuts and bolts of what happened it does give a good over view of what was happening at that time.

While the ending was good it did seem a little too neat and tidy. With everything being explained. While on one hand I did like having some things explained, I thought in a way it ruined some of the mystery that surrounded some of the characters like Auntie Love. The book would have been fine with out the explanation but like I said I did like finding out why, probably because I’m nosey ☺

If you like history and keen to learn more about Australian history this is a great historical novel with the added bonus that right at the end Jackie has included factual information about the events she writes about and the influences (such as Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson). I found this just as interesting as the book itself.


  1. I don't think we've progressed as a society much at all. The more things change, the more the stay the same, and all that.

  2. I'd love to visit Australia someday, so why not through books? For some reason I haven't read many books set on your side of the globe.