D Luckett, Sian: a new Australian, Omnibus/Scholastic, 1 August 2015, 232pp., $15.99 (pbk), ISBN 978 1 74299 039 2
Sian traces the early life of a Welsh girl arriving in Australia in the early twentieth century, around 1910. Sian is the youngest of thirteen brothers and sisters. Her mother dies when she is born, something for which her father does not forgive her. She is cared for by her sister, Olive, fourteen years her senior.
When Olive marries the carpenter, Ellis, Sian goes with them to Australia. A tragedy takes her to Darwin, where a better life begins to unfold. The picture of that place in its transformation from small port to a major city is cleverly realised, and Sian’s developing independence is poignantly drawn. Luckett writes with clarity and considerable depth to create strong characterisation. Sian and her friends and relatives step off the page.
With its simple language and realistic personae, the novel is suitable for middle school readers who are prepared to tackle its length.
Reviewed by Stella Lees