GORDON, Kate Writing Clementine Allen & Unwin, 2014 180pp $15.99 pbk+e ISBN 9781743316634 SCIS 1666657
At high school in Tasmania Clementine feels at odds with her friends who try to set her up with a boy and encourage her to lose weight and be cool. She is intrigued by a strangely dressed new boy called Fred. He is able to transfer to her Year 9 philosophy class and introduces her to the Burnie Steampunk Society. In spite of the family anxiety about her older brother, a young chef who lost his job and has not left his room for a year, Clementine begins to learn to swim against the flow she has up to now reluctantly accepted.
Clementine and the class write each day in their journals. Ms Hiller told her to ‘write Clementine’ and the narrative of the novel is created as she follows the instructions, and tells the story to her teacher. Clem unselfconsciously mentions Alaine de Botton, Sylvia Plath, John Donne, Shakespeare, and James Joyce. This sophisticated literary familiarity is matched with descriptions of hanging out with friends on Friday and Saturday nights and going places like Steampunk Balls with parental approval. It works well for the story but there may be readers of the same age who will not be able to identify yet with this aspect of Clementine’s situation. Though there are some funny mishaps and some almost tragic disasters this engaging, well paced story reaches a very satisfying resolution.
reviewed by Elspeth Cameron