Published by Hatchett Australia
Published on the 1st August 2017
My rating: ⭐ ⭐
She was three years old when the scrap man came. Three years old when her father sold her for nine shillings and sixpence. Thus began her life with the scrap man. Living with him, Wife, and Big Girl, she lives out her days setting traps, and catching rabbits, roaming town to town with the Scrap Man while he peddles their feebly made wares. Not quite understanding what happens at night when the Scrap Man finds his way into Big Girls bed at night leading to a pregnancy. All she dreams about is one day running away, being free of the slavery that she finds herself in, daring to dream a little about a possible better life, and a family that she once, maybe, knew. As she grows older her dreams of running away are just that, dreams. She does her best to get through the days, the thoughts of a new little baby at home to get her by.
She was only three years old the day her father sold her to the Scrap Man, did he know the kind of man he was selling her to?
I read this book as I’ve been invited to attend a book club meeting, and the possibility of joining up with said local book club if I like it. So this was their book of the month. I rushed into my local library to pick up a copy as I wasn’t too keen on spending $13 on a 207 page book on Kindle, I got the call this afternoon to tell me that it was totally fine for me to borrow the book even though it’s a book club only one. So I was pretty stoked about that. I figured, hey, this meeting happens next Wednesday so I’d better get started on it just in case it drags. That was like two hours ago… So I can definitely tell you, the story doesn’t drag, but that’s probably the only positive that I can give you.
The story is dark and definitely unsettling as the Goodreads synopsis says. Not greatly unsettling, just a bit. It gives off the feeling of being trapped. Having no safety, no one to run to, and no one to save you. The story is set in the early 1900s in Australia, namely near Bendigo in Victoria. We are told this little tidbit about halfway through. It’s the story of a young girl who was sold to a man in a father’s moment of desperation for the rest of his family, which consisted of a wife and 11 children all up. For me, I feel like this story is one of resilience, ‘You’ as our protagonist is affectionately known as, is a picture of resilience. She goes through such trauma and hardship, literally worked to the bone by the Scrap Man so that he can make some coin and get drunk, while touting that he’s a landowner and all respectable like. This girl goes through an absolute hell of a life (well, for the little of it that we are privy to because of this story anyway), and she keeps going. She has grandiose dreams of running away one day, being free, and getting away from the Scrap Man. Yet I found when she had these chances, she was so afraid of being found out by him that she just didn’t do anything. She just kept going about her daily existence hoping not to get hit again.
This story deals with some pretty heavy issues. It deals with domestic abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, and dare I say it? I would count it as rape, to be honest. Rape of a minor. I know that ‘back in those days’ it was normal for a grown man to take a pretty much ‘child’ bride, but it was still a bit disturbing to read about. He was having sex with our protagonist before she’d even got her period. So if you have a rough time with things like that, I wouldn’t recommend this book to you.
To be honest, I don’t even really know what happened in the story, or really, what the point of it was. We see ‘You’ go through a bunch of shit stuff and then the end is left open for the reader’s interpretation. I’m not sure if it was meant to be an illustration of the time in Australia? Or if it was meant to invoke serious thoughts from reading groups due to the ambiguity of a couple of situations that occurred in the book. I’m just left kinda not knowing the point of the story. There wasn’t so much character growth or development other than the characters got older. There was no real issue or problem that needed to be solved, it was literally just a chronicle of a short portion of a girls life in early 1900’s Australia. There was no resolution, not that I found anyway.
I can understand why this would be a good read for bookclubs however because it does raise many good points for discussion, such as a couple of things that were left open ended and up to the readers interpretation, so this will definitely create discussion. But I’m almost left wondering whether this book was written purely for the use of book clubs. I can’t say that I’m going to be rushing out to try another of Disher’s stories as I feel that they will all be written with a similar ‘formula’ so to speak. I may try another one if the opportunity arises though.
I do have to say that it was a quick and super easy read with nice flowing writing and good descriptions. If you’re interested in seeing a snapshot of life in the early 1900’s of Australia give it a go, you may just find you like it.