Review: Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

The setting is the Mallee, wide flat scrubland in north-western Victoria, country where men are bred quiet, women stoic and the gothic is never far away. Olive Lovelock has just turned twelve. She is smart, fanciful and brave and on the cusp of something darker than the small world she has known her entire life.

When she learns that she once had a baby sister who died — a child unacknowledged by her close but challenging family — Olive becomes convinced it was murder. Her obsession with the mystery and relentless quest to find out what happened have seismic repercussions for the rest of her family and their community. As everything starts to change it is Olive herself who has the most to lose as the secrets she unearths multiply and take on complicated lives of their own.

Little Gods is a novel about the mess of family, about vengeance and innocence lost. It explores resilience and girlhood and questions how families live with all of their complexities and contradictions. Resonating with echoes of Australian classics like Seven Little Australians, Cloudstreet, and Jasper Jones, Little Gods is told with similar idiosyncrasy, insight and style. Funny and heartbreaking, this is a rare and original novel about a remarkable girl who learns the hard way that the truth doesn’t always set you free.

Published March 2018 |  Publisher: Allen & Unwin  |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (2.5 / 5 stars)

I struggled with this novel. According to GR, I started reading at the end of April. I think I tried for 2 days’ commuting’s worth (approx 3.5 hours) and gave up. Usually, I would’ve nearly finished a novel but I read only about 1/3 of this novel. This was months ago so all I vaguely remember is the jumbled confusion on who’s who. The novel is told from solely from Olive’s perspective and most of the time, she refers to her mother by her name (the same applies to her aunts & uncles). There were 3 sisters and 3 brothers and somehow they formed one big family. It took me absolutely forever to sort them out. Actually, I don’t think I did then…

Today, I decided that the book deserves one last chance. Unbelievably, I caught on fairly quickly and finished the novel in no time at all. I guess the story did pick up after the confusing first third of the book. All the background set up is done and we can actually progress with what’s happened next. It’s obvious from the book’s description that the mystery was a tragedy and it’s something the family does not speak about. I admired Olive’s persistence in finding out the truth and when it hurt (a lot of inferences need to be drawn by the readers as to what’s actually happened; I was rather annoyed with this), she dealt and lived.

I wanted to read this book as it supposedly echoed Seven Little Australians, Cloudstreet, & Jasper Jones. I loved these three Aussie classics but unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Little Gods. Maybe, I picked it up at the wrong time and so struggled badly with the beginning of it, who knows?! Whilst I totally agree that this novel has a very Aussie vibes, I’m left dissatisfied at the close of the book.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for copy of book in exchange of honest review


About the author

Jenny Ackland is a writer and teacher from Melbourne. She has worked in offices, sold textbooks in a university bookshop, taught English overseas and worked as a proof-reader and freelance editor. Her short fiction has been published in literary magazines and listed in prizes and awards. Her debut novel The Secret Son – a “Ned Kelly-Gallipoli mash-up” about truth and history – was published in 2015. Little Gods is her second novel.

Find Kim on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  instagram

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