When the Lyrebird Calls by Kim Kane
Published November 2016 by Allen & Unwin
Source: the publisher
Rating: 3 stars
From the blurb: When Madeleine is shipped off to stay with her eccentric grandmother for the holidays, she expects the usual: politics, early-morning yoga, extreme health food, and lots of hard work. Instead, Madeleine tumbles back in time to 1900, where the wealthy Williamson family takes her into their home, Lyrebird Muse.
At a time when young girls have no power and no voice, set against a backdrop of the struggles for emancipation, federation and Aboriginal rights, Madeleine must find a way to fit in with the Williamson family's four sisters - beautiful, cold Bea; clever, awkward Gert; adventurous, rebellious Charlie; and darling baby Imo - as she searches desperately for a way home.
Meanwhile, the Williamson girls' enchanting German cousin, Elfriede, arrives on the scene on a heavenly wave of smoke and cinnamon, and threatens to shatter everything...
I've read Kim Kane's previous YA novel, Cry Blue Murder, co-authored with Marion Roberts, so when her new middle grade/YA novel showed up I was keen to give it a go, despite being really put off by the drab cover.
Twelve year old Maddie Barnes has been sent to stay with her grandmother in Melbourne, not far from an old house called Lyrebird Muse. When Maddie walks there one day, she finds herself transported back to 1900. She meets the Williamson sisters, Bea, Gert, Charlie, and Imo, and joins them in their daily life.
It's clear from the start that the author has done a lot of research when it comes to the family life, politics, and customs of that time. Maddie learns about the sort of clothing girls had to wear, the sort of food eaten, how servants were treated, and what it was like to be a woman. She's horrified at the racism and annoyed by the strict rules girls had to follow.
As Maddie learns about the history of her country, so too does the reader. This book would be perfect for students studying Australian history and might engage them more than a textbook (I know I found Australian history far less interesting than European history when I was in high school).
I don't read a lot of time travel stories so I liked that this aspect wasn't dwelt on too much. Maddie and the sisters accept that she is there and that she will somehow get home again. They didn't spend too much time wondering how or why it had happened.
But, the pacing was a little slow and I didn't find myself that connected to Maddie. However, the ending wrapped up well, bringing her story some closure.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the review copy.