Saturday, January 22, 2011
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
FTC Disclosure: borrowed from library
Content: PG-13 for language and dealing with suicide, death, and other issues.
In a sentence: A disjointed start but ended with a complex and beautiful story.
I will admit that the first 180 pages or so were a struggle to get through. The story jumped all over the place. I couldn't tell if was dreams or flashbacks being told. I couldn't wrap my head around territory wars in a small town in Australia with rival schools. I didn't understand why I was supposed to care. So I was debating whether or not to keep reading at 150 pages...I checked out a few reviews that said to hang in there. So I did. I'm really glad I did. Within 30-40 pages the story starts to unravel and you see who is who, why, and how.
Taylor was abandoned by her mother at a 7-11 at the age of eleven. She was picked up by Hannah who counsels at the local charity boarding school Jellicoe Road. We learn bits and pieces about what's going on...Taylor looked for her mom a few years before with a local Cadet named Jonah Griggs; Jellicoe Road, the Townies (local high school), and the Cadets are in territorial wars during the school year. This one didn't make much since till later....Hannah, Taylor's one mother figure, takes off one weekend without a word and leaves behind a manuscript describing five people and their lives here on Jellicoe Road...is it fiction or is Taylor somehow connected? Confused? I was....
That's my one main complaint with this one. It took too long to get into and bring the story together. I can understand why she did it, to a point. But I think Marchetta could have simplified and gotten to the point a bit early on. Some of the negative reviews said they couldn't even finish it and get past those first 200 pages. 200 pages is a lot to ask a reader. I stuck around because I'd read her earlier novel Saving Francesca, which was marvelous. And by the time it ended and the pieces were put together, I found I didn't care as much as I wanted to.
But overall, the last half of the book is excellent. She really brings the characters around and into focus. She has a way with building these intricate relationships all together. I loved all of the characters. Taylor was vulnerable but independent and a wonderful mind. Jonah is the bad boy but never too bad and had a big romantic heart and a complicated history. He was real. Even the supporting characters really supported (I know that sounds dumb, but true). Even though I can't fathom why Taylor's mom gave her up, etc, I at least can sympathize with what she's gone through. I also love how she weaves the topic of death. (That sounds weird...). How does death affect us? How does it affect a group of kids that experience its aftermath together? How does it continue to haunt us throughout the rest of our lives?
It's a great discussion book and gets you thinking. Stick with it for the first 200 pages and you will be glad you did.
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
This cover is the Australian one. The title is originally On the Jellicoe Road...which I find more fitting for the overall theme of the book. I also like the original cover best. I find I'm more interested in the novel and would want to read it. Go Australia on this one!