The voice that convinces will always be the voice of the individual, not as a spokesperson for this or that idea.Many Young Adult writers get it wrong because of the tyranny of good intentions.Not only is he stationary in a world swirling with purposeful human activity; but he is also in love with the ‘enemy’ of the time, a woman named Mitsy Sennosuke.
As a prerequisite they have done their extensive research; they are not bumbling around with stereotypes. She is not physically beautiful, and she can be bull-headed and unforgiving, a young Asian nurse without the endearing bedside manner usually associated with such caricatures.
They also trust their adolescent readers to have a more nuanced understanding of character development than the ‘heroes and villains’ mentality that informs much Young Adult literature. While washing Hart, she even laughs at his manhood. For long periods she sequesters herself away from Hart, as well as from her best friend, Hart’s sister Alice.
I remember reading (1993) and recognising the character Lee – not because he was Asian, but because he did not ‘do’ Asian-ness. When she tells Hart that she must give up nursing because her mother needs her, you get the strong sense that she exists as a separate character outside his own pinings and imaginings.
Disher writes that teenage girls initially hate Mitsy because she is ‘cold’ and stony towards the protagonist.
In the 1920s, Broome had around 5,000 inhabitants, only 900 of them white.
Broome had segregated cinemas, a Register of Aliens, and a clear but unofficial racial hierarchy.are first and foremost real frontiersmen: from Zeke the pearl diver, with his ascetic face and tough, scarred body, to Derby Boxer, the black stockman; from Mike Penrose with his pearling fleet to Alice Penrose and Mitsy, two young women who venture into cyclones and war zones.Arnold Zable uses the term ‘feral vitality’ to describe survivors of horrors beyond their control, and the reader gets the sense that this hotchpotch of races and cultures was united by their battle against the enemy and the elements.We forget that many of our compatriots came here because of war, that there are former child soldiers living in Australia, and that literature and the armed forces didn’t always occupy such opposing worlds.is a war story and an adventure story, but it is told by a protagonist who stays put, right at the centre of a metaphorical and literal cyclone.With his bad leg, all Hart Penrose can do is rotate in circles towards the action, striving for but never quite effecting any of the grandiose deeds he believes will make him a man.His dad is a pearler, his sister a nurse, his friend a soldier.Disher spares no sensitivities in recounting the indignities of the past and the cruelty of station owners towards the local indigenous population: ‘Carl didn’t force his recalcitrant black stockmen to dress in women’s clothes and do women’s work.If the blacks got “cheeky” he might dock their wages but never chain them down on a corrugated iron roof ...From this point on, the novel could have descended into a didactic tale of learning to tolerate difference, of not betraying your friends, of remembering past good deeds – Mitsy’s father once saved Hart’s life after all.But what elevates from a good yarn to a masterpiece of character development is that Disher doesn’t do this.