26/07/2010

Tall Story (by Candy Gourlay)

I'd never heard of Candy Gourlay. Hardly surprising, really, since this is her debut novel. The only reason I read it is that I wanted another book to review for The Bookbag site, and this looked the most appealing of what was on the shelves at the time. I do often enjoy fiction intended for older children/younger teens, but sometimes find they're rather too gritty and stark for my tastes. So I really wasn't entirely sure what to expect.

I shouldn't have worried. 'Tall Story' is a terrific read. It's narrated alternately by Andi and Bernardo. Andi is a spunky young teenage girl who loves basketball. She's very good at it, too, and has just learned that she has a place on her school team; this has been her heart's desire for some time now. The only trouble is, her parents' have been longing to move house... and have finally been able to buy a place they love. In a different district... which means that she has to change school.

Bernardo is an extremely tall boy who lives in the Philippines with his aunt and uncle. He is rather surrounded by superstition and unhelpful expectations, since his name is the same as that of a legendary giant who purportedly held the village together when a major earthquake struck. Is it just coincidence that there have been no earthquakes in the neighbourhood since Bernardo had his first dramatic growth spurt...?

Andi and Bernardo, despite having almost nothing in common, are half brother and sister. Bernardo has hoped for many years to go and live with his mother and step-family in the UK, but has been thwarted by Immigration. At last, however his papers are through and he can fly to London. The book charts the time prior to his departure, and his first, confused weeks in what seems like a very alien culture.

The book covers sexism, and biased teachers, and parental pressure, and cultural expectations. It covers superstition, too, with a little magic that is never explained. There's ongoing tension, since Bernardo starts collapsing... and there's humour too. The book is nicely paced, very readable, and is exactly the kind of story I'd love to have read aloud to my sons if they were still living at home.

Definitely recommended.

(You can also read my Bookbag review of 'Tall Story' if you are interested)

1 comment:

Candy Gourlay said...

thanks so much for your well-written review! and i'm glad you liked tall story.