Friday 7 December 2012

342. Matilda Saga Book 3 : Girl From Snowy River by Jackie French

Matilda Saga Book 3 : Girl From Snowy River by Jackie French
Published December 2012 Harper Collins

From the publisher:

The year is 1919. Thirty years have passed since the man from Snowy River made his famous ride. But World War I still casts its shadow across a valley in the heart of Australia, particularly for orphaned sixteen-year-old Flinty McAlpine, who lost a brother when the Snowy River men marched away to war.

Why has the man Flinty loves returned from the war so changed and distant? Why has her brother Andy 'gone with cattle', leaving Flinty in charge of their younger brother and sister and with the threat of eviction from the farm she loves so dearly?

A brumby muster held under the watchful eye of the legendary Clancy of the Overflow offers hope. Now Flinty must ride to save her farm, her family and the valley she loves.

Set among the landscapes of the great poems of Australia, this book is a love song to the Snowy Mountains and a tribute to Australia's poets who immortalised so much of our land. The Girl from Snowy River combines passion, heartbreak, history and an enduring love and rich understanding of our land. It continues the grand saga that began with A Waltz for Matilda.

It's funny, if I was asked the question "Do you like to read historical fiction?"  My immediate answer would be no, but put a Jackie French historical novel in may hands and I just can't put it down.  I am mostly preaching to the converted I am sure, when I say that Jackie French has a real way with making history readable.  

I won’t go too much into what the story is about, because the blurb above does a good job of that.  I will tell you how this book made me feel. In a nutshell it made me feel lucky and proud, even though this book isn’t really about war it is about how the war affected our country and our people.  Flinty lost a brother in the war, and the brother that did come back, did so for only a short time before he left for work in Queensland.  Both of her parents died while her brothers were are away, so Flinty, only 19 (and a woman) is the head of the household, looking after her two younger siblings, keeping the property running and making sure they have food on the table.  Flinty is courageous and determined, and it’s these attributes that lead her to take the path most would avoid.  If she has to do a man’s job to get what she needs, then that is what she will do.  We should all walk a day in Flinty’s shoes when we think our life is tough.

There is also an element of the ghostly and supernatural in the story. Flinty meets a wounded soldier in a bathchair (wheelchair), but his is unusually made of metal, he was injured in the war, but his war was in 1969.  Nicholas is from the future, he was sent to the rock to meet the ghost of Flinty McAlpine. Only Flinty can see Nicholas and only Nicholas can see Flinty, they can only meet at the rock, and only in the mist.  This aspect of the story may seem far fetched and incongruous, but it works.  Their friendship is what they both need to help them get through some very tough times.

With my head being all about the Australian National Curriculum, I immediately thought about where it might fit.  It could be used in Year 9 (Students investigate key aspects of World War I and the Australian experience of the war, including the nature and significance of the war in world and Australian history).  There’s one aspect of the story that pushes the readership up slightly, and that’s when Flinty is attacked by a returned soldier, it is not said in so many words that he tries to rape her, but that was undoubtedly his intention.  It is just something to keep in mind when recommending the book.

This book is absolutely a stand alone novel, in fact I didn't know there was a 'Matilda Saga' until I read the blurb for this one.  There is some information about the timeline of the Matilda books in the back, A Waltz For Matilda (1894-1915), A Rose for the Anzac Boys (1915-1920) and this one (1919-1926), there will be another three books to come covering the years 1932-1972, with the last book being set in 1969-72, where we will meet again the wounded Vietnam veteran, Nicholas, who Flinty meets on the rock in this story.   There’s also historical notes at the back of the book, including the poems The Man From Snowy River and Clancy of the Overflow.  There’s a bit about the role of women in the 1920s, native plants used in the book, catching brumbies and the Men from Snowy River March. 

To me this book has elements of Little Women and What Katy Did to it, while at the same time being uniquely Australian.  I seriously doubt that there will be any young girls who could resist this story, there’s drama, history and romance and rolled into a great read that I couldn’t put down.

Who will like this book: Girls age 12+
Read it if you like: A Waltz for Matilda by Jackie French


  1. I had no idea this was a series...and I've read Matilda and Rose (and loved both)!

    1. Like I said, I didn't know either, and I guess that's because it isn't a series in the true series sense. The books take place so many years apart and in this book Matilda is mentioned, but many years have passed. If you had read the earlier book you would recognise her, but if you hadn't the the story is no less meaningful. Kirsty Murray did something similar in her Children of the Wind series.

  2. Best Book Ever!!!!!!!
    But.... please please please write another book because i just have to find out if..
    they have to move to drink water
    and if sandy mack can have babies and if so i want to know what happens
    and i want to know about the wedding
    and id Andy gets a motor bike
    Please please Please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    write a second book
    from your biggest fan of the book The Girl from Snowy River