It Takes A Village – Christine Stinson – 8/10

“If you ask me, it’s a scandal, the way that woman carries on”

Stinson’s second novel follows Sophie from age 8 in a postwar country town in Australia. Expected by most of the village to go off the rails, as her teenaged mother did, we follow her as she grows to understand the adults around her and eventually herself – although not without plenty of adventures along the way!
As the novel opens, a neighbourhood boy has divulged a few choice truths about Sophie’s parentage; she punches him in the nose for his indiscretion. Sophie’s combative approach to conflict gets her into plenty of trouble, but provides the reader with lots of entertainment along the way.
I spotted the resolution of both romantic sub-plots, but that’s no bad thing, much childhood romance is predictable. There isn’t much of a main plot, although Sophie’s quest to find out her father runs through most of the book. Rather, this novel is driven by the simple passage of time and Sophie’s growing-up, which facilitates character development not only of the young ones but also of the adults as they learn to deal with these young adults with whom they live.
Sophie is a little combative for my tastes, but I loved her anyway. The key adults, particularly Sophie’s grandfather and pseudo-grandmother Mrs Hogan, are perfectly thought out, and the supporting cast are developed just enough to be interesting without being overwhelming. Every community has a Miss Margaret and every school has a Sister Dorothea.
Normally at this stage in a review I would have a few quotes, but the style of this novel is so straightforward and the simple narrative style so suited to Sophie that there were very few one-liners thrown out. While that was appropriate for the narrative voice, I know from Stinson’s first novel Getting Even with Fran (to be reviewed here eventually!) – and from knowing her personally – that she has a wicked sense of humour and I would have liked to see more of that shine through in It Takes a Village.
I loved the cover for this book – it encapsulates an Australian childhood so completely. My grandparents had a tree with a conveniently low branch, and I’m pretty sure I sat on it numerous times with filthy feet and a cotton frock just like the one in the picture.
A light-hearted country tale with a good heart. Accessible to non-Australians – let’s hope the book is made physically available to non-Australians too!
Additional info:
A family copy given by the author, who is a very dear family friend.
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia, 323 pages (paperback)
Order this from Borders Australia, direct from the publisher, or from Readings.com.au.
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