Saturday, August 11, 2012

Book 68 - Calling the Gods by Jack Lazenby -

Winner of the New Zealand Post Children's Book Award 2012. I saw the proof copy of this when I was in New Zealand last year and couldn't wait to read the actual book. As soon as I arrived back in Auckland I headed for my local library and had to reserve it (a good sign).

This book is set in the future and follows the banishment from her village of a young woman named Selene. Selene has the gift of calling the gods to her village each year - whales. Her village makes the most of the gift of one of the gods to them by preserving the meat, making oil, using every part of the whale to sustain their precarious existence. We meet Selene as she is banished and we travel with her on her journey of survival against amazing odds. She has to bury her lover at sea as his attempt to join her is discovered and he is killed by the villagers as he attempts to sail to her. She rescues her brothers and a few others from the burned out remains of the village and they flee north to try to make a new life for themselves.

As they find a bay that is inhabitable and begin to create their own village Selene is 'seen' by an elderly man in our time. He sees Selene and her new tribe as ghosts and begins to understand that they are not from the past but of the future. His observations bring a kind of anthropological commentary to the story. It is this aspect of the novel that is troubling for some readers. The novel does demand a lot from its readers but gives us an inspirational person in the character of Selene. She shows courage in the face of overwhelming odds. She is forced to take risks in her efforts to build a future for her family. Her leadership provides the younger children with security

Review from Tomorrow's Schools today and a less than favourable review from Aleisha Cotterall posting in a forum of Booksellers NZ