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Book Review

Book Cover

The Nargun and the Stars


Author: Patricia Wrightson
Catnip Publishing
RRP: £5.99, US $10.50
ISBN: 978 1 84647 076 9
Available 04 June 2009

When Simon’s parents are killed he is sent into the Australian countryside to live with his aunt and uncle, but something else lives in the outback. As old as the Earth, and filled will anger and rage, The Nargun has come from the south, intent on destruction...

The Nargun and the Stars is a young person’s fantasy novel by Patricia Wrightson. It’s not often that you get to review a book that is only a tad younger than yourself, as the Nargun was originally published in 1973. Although I haven’t seen it, the book was adapted for television in 1980. The book was awarded the Australian Children's Book of the year (1974) and the Hans Christian Anderson Medal (1986). Most recently the book was adapted by Erth's for their latest theatrical show which toured Western Australia in February 2009 for the Perth International Arts Festival.

Nargun is a wonderful story which draws its characters from native Australian mythology. We are first introduced to the Nargun, a rock like creature which is very much in tune with the earth in which it resides, listening to the beat of the Earth as the centuries passed it by. Had it not been disturbed it would have remained hidden and safe, but roused from its slumber the angry Nargun slowly over decades makes its way from the southern lands to the farm of Simon's aunt and uncle.

Simon is gruff and had been gruff since the death of his parents; it is with no little dislike that he views being moved out into the country. Unwilling to remain in the house he starts to investigate the world around him and is surprised to discover that it is populated by magical creatures, once known to the aborigines, but unknown to modern man. Here he meets the Porkoorok and the secretive Nyols and the Turongs. Although he feels that this secretive world is his own he quickly discovers that his uncle also knows about the creatures and had met them when he was a child. With the Nargun, a threat to both mortal man and mythical creature, Simon must find a way of dealing with the threat.

I’m not really sure why this and her other books haven’t travelled well outside of Australia, as Wrightson is a remarkable writer able to turn her hand to poetic descriptions of the land to spine chilling descriptions of the Nargun as a creature of immense power, something to fear. Her descriptions are vivid, not least when dealing with the description of the creature itself, a sort of squat rock creature which contains a kind of ferocity which is difficult for our protagonists to handle.

There is a ‘coming of age’ part to the story, but for the most part the author deals with this mythical world as if it were real, which I suppose it was to the aborigines, imbuing it with life and vitality, a remarkable achievement in a young person’s novel, although this book could be enjoyed by readers of any age. With its underlying discussion about the relationship between man and the planet he lives on Wrightson is a writer ahead of her time. The story hasn’t aged a day in its relevance or its ability to capture the reader's imagination.


Charles Packer

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