Author: Liza Perrat
First Published: November 29, 2016
First Line: "Knuckles blanch, distend as my hand curves around the yellowed newspaper pages and my gaze hooks onto the headlines."
Book Description from GoodReads: All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall wants is a happy family. But Mum does nothing besides housework, Dad’s always down the pub and Nanna Purvis moans at everyone except her dog. Then Shelley arrives –– the miracle baby who fuses the Randall family in love for their little gumnut blossom.
Tanya’s life gets even better when she meets an uncle she didn’t know she had. He tells her she’s beautiful and could be a model. Her family refuses to talk about him. But that’s okay, it’s their little secret.
Then one blistering summer day tragedy strikes, and the surrounding mystery and suspicion tear apart this fragile family web.
Embracing the social changes of 1970s Australia, against a backdrop of native fauna and flora, The Silent Kookaburra is a haunting exploration of the blessings, curses and tyranny of memory.
Unsettling psychological suspense blending the intensity of Wally Lamb with the atmosphere of Peter James, this story will get under your skin.
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
My Review: I have read and enjoyed two of Perrat's earlier Historical Fiction novels set during WWII (Wolfsangel, Blood Rose Angel). She is a wonderful writer whose plots are compelling and characters leap off the page. When she approached me to review this book I was more than eager to read something from her from a different genre and era - suspense in the 'groovy' 1970's.
The book is set within Perrat's native Australia with Tanya, an eleven year old girl as our protagonist. She's a tween growing up in the 1970's who experiences bullying and lives in a dysfunctional family. Perrat got into Tanya's mindset, rationale and vernacular well and gives her readers a different perspective looking at the mystery through a child's eyes. But, using a child as the protagonist limits how much the reader can see and I found some scenes hard to read when I could easily predict what would happen but naive Tanya could not.
These emotional scenes are contrasted by the humour of Nanna Purvis with her mispronounced words and opinionated 'old school' values. While Tanya and her Nanna were quite vibrant as characters, unfortunately some of the secondary characters didn't feel quite so well-defined (Angela and her family, the mean girl down the street etc).
This book is touted as a suspense read but I found it was much more of an analysis on this dysfunctional family. There was a murder but it was slowly paced and played second fiddle to the turbulent lives of the Randall family. And wow, were they turbulent! There were some scenes that were quite disturbing and hard to read. But these scenes help the reader to root for Tanya who has lived through so much and, unfortunately, has had to take up more responsibilities in her family because her parents are absent - emotionally and physically. There is still an element of suspense that progresses through the book but the tension wasn't there for me. The twist, which wasn't predictable but wasn't shocking either, is left until the end.
Overall, this was a good 'slow burn' kind of read that had some hard to read scenes but wasn't as suspenseful as I had hoped. It had some very powerful scenes but I would call it a well written story that features several social issues and a destructive family who suffers through tragedy, loss, mental illness, abuse and the effects of family secrets.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Liza Perrat for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.