This is the ninth and final book in the bestselling Matilda Saga, which has focussed on strong women who helped forge Australia as a nation. Told in a single sweeping story beginning in 1884, the series follows the life of Matilda O’Halloran, although not always as the central character. French has chosen various points in Australia’s history to set each book, such as Federation, the suffragette movement, World War One, the Vietnam War and the Whitlam years.
In Clancy of the Overflow, Jed Kelly has finally persuaded her great aunt Nancy to tell the story of her grandparents. The tale that unfolds is one of Australia’s greatest romances – that of Clancy of the Overflow, who gave up everything for Rose, the woman he adored, and yet still gained all he’d lost and more.
But Nancy’s story is not the history that Jed expects. More tales lurk behind the folklore that surrounds Clancy – the stories of the women hidden in Australia’s long history, who forged a nation and whose voices need to be heard.
It is also a story of many kinds of love. Clancy’s growing passion for the bush, immortalised in Paterson’s poem, which speaks to him in the ripple of the river and the song of the stars, and Nancy’s need to pass on her deep understanding of her country. A profound sense of place permeates this novel, with rich, vivid imagery.
‘The drought-stained air outside the hospital smelled of dust and snakes, coiled under hot rocks in sun-seared paddocks, lucky to have eaten enough spring frogs to keep the reptiles alive for a further year of drought before summer drank the pools.’
Perhaps the most moving love story of all is the one that never happened, between Matilda O’Halloran and Clancy of the Overflow. And as Jed brings all of these stories to life in her book, Matilda and Clancy will once again waltz beside the river and the forgotten will be given a new voice.
Jackie French is a master storyteller, who can recreate and imagine Australian stories like no other. The book switches between time periods, and French easily places the reader into the heart of each one. Her historical threads here, and in all her books, truly shine, for she rewrites Australia’s history, written by men, and gives women a rich, strong, and brutally honest voice.
I was concerned that I hadn’t read the previous titles in the Matilda Saga, yet this reads as a standalone, but has compelled me to return to book #1 and read through now, for I’m sure that will add layers of depth to this beautiful story. There are so many important themes in this book, and yet it is so seamlessly written that it unfolds as delicious entertainment. I thoroughly enjoyed Clancy of the Overflow. Highly recommended.
About the author:
Jackie French AM is an award-winning writer, wombat negotiator, the 2014–2015 Australian Children’s Laureate and the 2015 Senior Australian of the Year. In 2016 Jackie became a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to children’s literature and her advocacy for youth literacy. She is regarded as one of Australia’s most popular children’s authors and writes across all genres — from picture books, history, fantasy, ecology and sci-fi to her much loved historical fiction for a variety of age groups. ‘Share a Story’ was the primary philosophy behind Jackie’s two-year term as Laureate.