Lorraine Marwood, Leave Taking, University of Queensland Press, July 2 2018, 136 pp., $14.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9780702260117
Toby’s younger sister has just died from cancer, and now his parents have decided to sell their dairy farm that has been in the family for generations, starting afresh on a new farm. In the lead up to their move Toby receives a map of the farm his father, as a young boy, had drawn. So, Toby devises a plan of ‘leave taking’ camping at different sites on the farm each night, and reliving memories shared with his younger sister.
A major theme of ‘Leave taking’ is dealing with loss – and the way the author portrays the character of Toby doing this is quite clever and could be helpful for a child experiencing similar circumstances. However, I wasn’t really convinced that it resulted in a book that would interest children. The content is mainly observations of farm life and Toby’s memories with his sister in particular places. It was a gentle read, and I found myself wondering if a younger reader would persist with it in the absence of an obvious plot-line. I really wanted something more to happen.
The short novel is distinctive in the verse style of writing used by the author; with sentences broken across short verses/paragraphs. This style ensures that the novel is not too wordy and therefore accessible to younger readers; 8–10 years. Initially I found it a little disjointed to read being more used to a narrative style, but after a while I got into the rhythm, and began to appreciate the crafting of each sentence.
I think an effective use for this book would be as a classroom tool to demonstrate writing techniques. The author, Lorraine Marwood, writes descriptively and captures the small details of a scene, paying attention to the sounds smells and sights. It may also be a good introduction to readers of the verse style and perhaps provide inspiration for them to experiment writing in this style also
Reviewed by Julie Bertola