(On the) Jellicoe Road (by Melina Marchetta)

5 05 2011

Ah, for a very long time, the cat hasn’t come across a book like Jellicoe Road. What a breath of (dusty Australian) fresh air this is! Taylor Markham is 17 when we meet her at Jellicoe School where she has just become the reluctant leader of the Underground Community who leads the territory wars between the school, the Townies and the Cadets. In an all interconnected puzzle of past and present friendships, loves and sorrows, Marchetta unfolds slowly but oh so beautifully the events that have lead Taylor to where she is at present.

For the longest of times (at least 100 pages!) the cat read this book with the hugest of frowns on her face, not knowing what to think what the heck was going on in the book. You get Taylor’s story at the school and the present territory wars (say what?) interspersed with the story of a car accident on the Jellicoe Road some 20 years before, as well as the story of a boy in a tree who visits Taylor in her dreams, as well as a manuscript written by Taylor’s (disappeared) guardian Hannah, about 5 teens… It’s definitely not that this is a slow start, not at all, but the interconnectedness of everything makes it confusing at worst but mesmerizing at its absolute best…

All this is due to Marchetta’s incredibly poetic talent. Her prose has a graceful and lyrical flow which is both electrifying and hypnotizing at the same time, but instead of slowing you down as you read, it urges you forward, wanting to savor every little bit of it,… Unlike so many other novels that either choose the character- or plot-oriented approach, I would argue you get the best of both worlds in Jellicoe Road. The characterization in Jellicoe Road moves beyond a mere portrayal of Taylor Markham, or Jonah Griggs (leader of the Cadets), or any of the other protagonists (from both eras). As the title suggests, Jellicoe Road in itself turns into a character, described in such detailed beauty, it would be an injustice not to mention it. The dusty heat of the Australian summer is all over the pages here.

At the same time, Marchetta’s prose and her carefully woven tale of friendship, sadness and loss urges you on to keep on reading so you know the outcome of both stories. If there was ever a time to use the words ‘gorgeous’ and ‘leaving you breathless’ in connection with the style of an author, this is it. Melina Marchetta has the gift to draw readers in, to grab them by the throat, even if (especially if) they have the hugests of frowns on their faces trying to figure out what she is on about. She’s one of those rare authors that doesn’t take the reader for granted, who doesn’t compromise about so-called plot conventions, who dares to go beyond the traditional boundaries of a genre or a plot device (like e.g. the love story between 2 protagonists).

Saying anything more about the plot or the characters of the book would spoil it. This is a book you need to take in wholly and completely. The cat will not spoil that for you.  Suffice it say that you get a carefully crafted tale of friendship and love, of sorrow and loss, of belonging. Long to be.



One response

29 01 2013
Ten Things We Shouldn’t Have Done (by Sarah Mlynowski) « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] published under the title Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have) in the US. Sometimes titles just get changed from one country to the next, with no real […]

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