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Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall
Published by Legends Press on July 3, 2017
Genres: Young Adult
Buy on Book Depository
I don’t remember the last time a novel blindsided me. Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall blindsided me.
Skylarking accidentally became the start of an accidental series of Australian young adult novels on here. Accidentally because I never usually do anything based on country, and accidentally because I discovered Skylarking when I was working with Kate’s sister. Maggie was excited her sister had signed a contract for her second novel (congrats, Kate), and when Maggie said the first was YA, I was straight to Dymocks.
But, Skylarking. It’s a based-on-history story of two girls growing up in a lighthouse community in the 1880s. Kate and Harriet are daughters of the two lighthouse keepers and best of friends. From the start you know something has happened to Harriet. It’s the what happened that blindsided me.
I’m not sure how authentic Skylarking is. There’s a touch of LGBTIQ+ that’s not typical of books set then, but is probably more real of actual history. I also appreciate the more respectful approach to the indigenous population on their lighthouse island.
While the story does lead up to the event, it’s the depiction of everyday life that intrigued me. It’s Kate’s excitement when she’s trusted with making the Christmas pudding for the first time. It’s the lighthouse keepers going out in the storm to try and save sailors from a wreck. It’s the excitement of the supply ship bringing the mail. It’s also the sadness of young children lost to illness and limited food because of being on an island. And of course, being female in Australia in the 1880s. While writing this, I’m reminded of Anne of Green Gables, except Skylarking is a more realistic kind of wholesome. And I adore that Skylarking isn’t predictable.
Skylarking has me looking forward to Kate’s next book, and thinking I need to vacation on the islands off the New South Wales coast exploring lighthouses.
Next in the accidental Australian YA novel series will be one of the short-listed novels in The Readings Young Adult Book Prize for 2019. Actually, I just decided. It’s Highway Bodies by Alison Evans. I feel like some zombie stories.
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