Book Review Dust by Christine Bongers reviewed by Jill Smith
This is a brilliant story with many layers. It begins with a mother driving her two children, in a rushed trip to attend a funeral, from Brisbane to a remote outback community in the heart of outback Queensland.
The back cover blurb starts with this:
Twelve year old Celia Maria was named after saints and martyrs to give her something to live up to.
Over my dead body, she vows.
Celia Maria has to be tough, she has five brothers. Punk especially likes to torment her. The Kapernicky’s live next door and were often the butt of their games. ‘Sis, you’ve got Aileen Kapernicky’s germs!’ The game of ‘tag’ or ‘thump and tag’ began. They had to have loopholes to get around that one in Confession. A fortnightly trial they had to endure as Catholics in a largely agnostic area.
Having been in an audience session at Somerset Literary Festival earlier this year and enjoying her speak, I recall she said ‘It’s a wonder I survived my childhood.’ As much of what she put in this book was drawn from her own childhood, I can only wonder how Christine made it to adulthood.
Aileen and Janeen Kapernicky were new to their school. Celia only knew there was something different about them. Aileen would do cart wheels in the playground while Janeen would sit silently by. They invaded Celia’s space as she loved to swing on the monkey bars. Worse still her best sanctuary was the library, one day Janeen was there with her. Celia took an instant dislike to Aileen and fighting was another sin she would have to Confess. Janeen was distant, and Celia realised they shared a love of books, so why did she find it hard to get to know her better?
The small town community suffered the drought, the dust, the gossip and small town scandals. I loved how Christine gets the reader into the heart of the family, the struggles and life of the dust bowl of rural community in the heat of outback Queensland.
Christine Bongers grew up in Biloela, Central Queensland. She left to go to University, became a broadcast journalist, in Brisbane and London. At Somerset she described radio as a fantastic way to have fun, then television was even better. This book shares the memories of her youth and her boundless enthusiasm for life born out of surviving her own brothers, the heat and dust. I loved it and will happily recommend this to anyone who loves reading Young Adults books and coming of age stories.