- Publication date:1 May 2010
- Format:B format paperback
- Genre: historical fiction
- Age guide: Older Readers, 15+
For In Lonnie’s Shadow
In Lonnie’s Shadow
By Chrissie Michaels
The discovered artifacts from an archaeological dig in Melbourne become the backdrop for this story about a group of teenagers in 1891 who are struggling to make their way in a world that seems to be conspiring against them whichever way they turn.
Lonnie McGuinness knows only one thing for sure – there doesn’t seem to be any fairness in life for him or his mates. So he decides to take matters into his own hands. But when does a favour turn into a crime? And when should a secret no longer be kept?
Jenny Mounfield –
Casselden Place, situated in the inner city precinct of Melbourne’s Little Lon, which was known as a decadent district for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, became the site of an archaeological dig in 2002. Everything from clay pipes to bones was unearthed, and from these artefacts, a mosaic of early Australian life started to emerge. Now housed in Museum Victoria, these artefacts form the backbone of Michaels’ debut YA novel, In Lonnie’s Shadow.
Set in 1891 against a backdrop of grime and gaslight, readers are introduced to the struggle of three teens: Pearl, a ‘working girl’ caught between two hard-hearted madams; factory worker, Daisy, and Lonnie, stable boy and righter-of-wrongs. Their story is brutal; it’s a story of survival at a grassroots level. But it is also a story of mateship and survival that makes for compelling reading.
This may be a very different world to the one our kids face, a harsher, dirtier world, but some things seem destined to never change. There are still dangers both physical and spiritual to be avoided, and so, too, there is still the inevitable search for purpose and place that we all must undertake on the eve of adulthood.
Michaels’ extensive research is evident in these authentic characters—nothing has slipped her attention to detail: language, dress, mannerisms are all impossible to fault. A story of such historical significance would have failed on many levels if she hadn’t been so diligent. Her narrative, too, is a joy to read:
‘A smudge of gaslight revealed the gloomy room beyond. The walls were mildewed from the damp and in need of a good scrub down. There was the same impassable gash of a window, planked up on the outside, as the one upstairs. There was no shimmering lace curtains blown by a sweet breeze here; only a bed as sorrowful as all the others where the girls were made to spend their working days and flea-bitten nights.’
With its Melbourne streets and landmarks, In Lonnie’s Shadow is Oliver Twist with a distinctly Aussie flavour. The itinerary at the front of the book, which lists each artefact used in the story, is a worthwhile addition. Each short chapter is headed with each relevant artefact making for a clever blending of fact and fiction. The only thing missing, I feel, is a map of the area.
Without a doubt, In Lonnie’s Shadow will be invaluable in the classroom where history is a difficult subject to engage an adolescent mind at the best of times. So, too, it will find favour with fans of historical fiction.
In Lonnie’s Shadow is realistic book, with teen issues. It is about a 16 year old boy whose life has its ups and downs. One day, something amazing is happening, the next, he is involved in conspiracies, and even murder. He doesn’t live in the best conditions, but he doesn’t let it bother him; he lives every day to the fullest with his friends, having fun.
This book seems to be written for a young to mid teen audience, and the story’s complications fits this age range appropriately. Although some of the themes in this story (such as rape) are more suited to an older teen audience. It is well written and very descriptive.
This book has a somewhat confusing story line, with a number of important issues happening at once, to be forgotten about, but then re-visited later on. At several points the time period is sketchy, the front cover suggesting the story may be slightly futuristic, but then the dialogue used is that of an early to mid 1900’s time period.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books of this genre. This book would be a good read for those who enjoy old style, borderline mystery/conspiracy novels.