Sadie isn’t thrilled when her mother drags her from the city to live in the country town of Boort. But soon she starts making connections – connections with the country, with the past, with two boys, Lachie and Walter, and, most surprisingly, with the ever-present crows.
When Sadie is tumbled back in time to view a terrible crime, she is pulled into a strange mystery. Can Sadie, Walter and Lachie figure out a way to right old wrongs, or will they be condemned to repeat them?
Crow Country is a little bit magic. When you hold the actual book in your hand you’ll feel a beautiful embossing on the cover – the skeletons of leaves – they take shape beneath your fingers before your eyes have quite noticed them. Similarly, the story of Sadie appears to be ordinary, but quickly becomes anything but. Sadie slips in and out of time, witnessing past events that have shaped the community of Boort more than its residents would care to admit. It’s contemporary fiction and historical fiction, family drama meets murder mystery, all carefully blended with Constable’s magic touch.
What I particularly loved about Crow Country was how it presents sensitive indigenous issues, as well as universal themes, with absolute grace and respect. At our booktalkers event this week Constable reported that she was very concerned about being accurate and authentic in telling an indigenous Australian story. Her manuscript was reviewed by an Aboriginal elder prior to publication, and the protagonist Sadie is, like Constable herself, approaching the culture from an “outsiders” perspective. Constable’s portrayal of indigenous mythology, through the character of the crow, is eerie and beautiful. It also extends far beyond one culture – at the core the story is about belonging, and it is about respect. We all come from somewhere, we are all a part of some country, we are all just one species on this limited resource we call Earth. Constable taps into a yearning to be a part of something bigger than your own fleshy boundaries, whether that something bigger is about belonging within your family, your community, or to your physical environment. Constable also explores the pain of displacement – from Sadie’s unexpected relocation from Melbourne to Boort, to the colonisation of Australia and subsequent displacement of its indigenous population.
Despite dealing with some serious and sombre issues, Crow Country is not a difficult read. It is poignant but not painful, contemplative but not complicated. It has football, motorbikes, time slips, and friendships. So far it’s been shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Literary Award, the 2012 CBCA Book of the Year Award for Younger Readers, and the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature (Children’s Literature). Recommend for middle grade readers and older, who want a bit of magic and mystery.