The big issues: Read a review of The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon

The big issues: Read a review of The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon

Twig wakes up in the Afterlife, bewildered and desperately trying to remember what has happened to bring him here. Snatches of memory return over the course of the novel that help the reader piece together Twig’s history in “real” life.

A child abandoned to the streets; Twig has found succour amongst other lost souls. Guided by Flea, another homeless child, they live on the streets and make a kind of basic existence that is underpinned by longing and desire for better days and a more fulfilling life. Twig clings to hope and the chance of reuniting with his Da.

Twig’s real life is slowly revealed to have been lived in a post-capitalism style society which has descended into chaos, with an enormous divide between rich and poor, and with law and order corrupted by a localised underworld figure, the Hoblin. The connection between the Hoblin and Twig is a climactic reveal that sets the scene for a test of loyalty.

In the Afterlife Twig embarks upon a quest, guided by the skeleton raven Krruk and armed with an atlas, a set of bones and a key. Can he unlock all the Crossings to achieve his goal? Will he fade and lose all his memories before completing his quest? Will he find Da?

Learning to survive on the streets is almost as challenging as learning how to navigate the Afterlife, and the book flicks between these two worlds, past and present, as we come to understand, piece by piece, the story that brings Twig to such a desperate position.

Zana Fraillon’s previous novel, The Bone Sparrow, won the ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children and the Amnesty CILIP Honour. It was an intensely touching book about a young child who spends a lifetime in a detention centre. In this new book Zana once again tackles big issues: homelessness, post-capitalist society, corruption, law and order, gender identity, betrayal and loyalty.

This is not a fast-paced race-to-the-end kind of book. I found myself flicking back to previous chapters to verify my own comprehension. Assumptions I had made in the first reading were challenged in later chapters. Magical realism blends with superstition. Parallels exist between Twig’s two worlds and ours. Bewilderment challenges the brain to think differently.

Don’t let any of this put you off this book: I’m of the firm belief that young readers have much more “elastic” imaginations than adults! This book is rewarding and fulfilling, with scope for much reflection and discussion. Cute little Meeples provide comic relief and Krruk’s “wide-boy” intonations made me laugh out loud.

The mind-expanding tales and the form of the novel were challenging in all the right ways, making it an immensely intriguing, and ultimately satisfying, read. This is sophisticated reading for readers 12+

 

 

Reviews

Magical realism: Read an extract from The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon

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28 July 2020

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Synopsis

Loyalty is tested, and a cruel twist of fate leads to an act of ultimate betrayal in this epic story that spans a city, a decade, and the divide between life and death itself.Twig is all alone after his dad goes missing. But when he meets Flea, a cheerful pickpocket, the pair become fast friends. Together, Twig and Flea raise themselves on the crime-ridden streets, taking what they need and giving the rest to the even-poorer. Life is good, as long as they have each other.But then Twig wakes up in the Afterlife. With just a handful of vague memories, a key, a raven, and a mysterious atlas to guide him, he tries to piece together what happened, and to find his way home . . .A powerful story of hope and friendship from the award-winning author of The Bone Sparrow.
Zana Fraillon
About the author

Zana Fraillon

Zana Fraillon was born in Melbourne, but spent her early childhood in San Francisco.Zana has written two picture books for young children, a series for middle readers, and a novel for older readers based on research and accounts of survivors of the Forgotten Generation. She spent a year in China teaching English and now lives in Melbourne with her three sons, husband and two dogs.When Zana isn't reading or writing, she likes to explore the museums and hidden passageways scattered across Melbourne. They provide the same excitement as that moment before opening a new book - preparing to step into the unknown where a whole world of possibilities awaits.

Books by Zana Fraillon

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