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Monday, September 10, 2012

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Title: On The Jellicoe Road
Author: Melina Marchetta

Release Date: 28th August 2006

My Rating: 4/5

I'm dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.

Taylor is the leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs - the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.

And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor's only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother - who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

In A Nutshell:
On the Jellicoe Road is a story about family, in all its different forms and meanings, with characters that will stay with you long after the last page.

My Review:
It has taken me a while to have the motivation to pick up On the Jellicoe Road. It is one of those books that people have either really enjoyed or just not understood it and given up, or stuck with it but still not ‘gotten it’. I will admit it, I found myself rather confused for a large part of the first half of the book but I then hit a point where all of a sudden everything just clicked and it made complete sense. I couldn’t believe I didn’t see it all before and thinking back now after finishing it I can’t understand why I was confused because it all joins up and gets explained so completely. Such is the eloquence of Melina Marchetta as she weaves a heartbreaking tale of love, loss, abandonment, strength and resilience and friendship.

It is rather difficult to write about Jellicoe because the story is based around secrets that need to be discovered in due course and it is very easy to spoil the book so I am going to be rather vague and for that I apologise.

On the Jellicoe Road is set in the countryside of New South Wales in Australia and follows Taylor Markham who has just been appointed head of the Boarders, a job she is less than thrilled to be given. For a reason no one knows, there has been a long-standing feud between the Boarders, the Cadets (who spend 6six weeks a year in the countryside) and the Townies (who live in the town near the Jellicoe School). Taylor’s first job as leader is to negotiate new territory rules with the leader of the Townies, Chaz Santangelo, and the the Cadets, Jonah Griggs, who is the last person Taylor ever wants to see again. What follows is six weeks of arguments, flirting, truths and revelations.

I love all the characters but especially Taylor, Jonah, Raffy and Chaz. I love their dynamic and the love-hate relationship they have that intertwines them together. I love that Taylor and Jonah are both searching for something but are afraid of letting people in. Appearances can be deceiving and it is interesting that when the three rival groups start to look past the fact that they are from opposing sides and get to know each other, the feud that was never their fight becomes less important in some ways but extremely important in others as Taylor and those closest to her work to uncover the truth of ‘the five’ and what happened so many years ago.

Narnie, Tate, Webb, Fitz and Jude and characters in a manuscript that Taylor finds and believes are fictional but she slowly comes to recognise similarities between the characters and information she picks up from things said at the Jellicoe school. The story of the five teenagers and how they became friends is so incredibly heartbreaking and only becomes more so as the book goes on and you are able to relate them to actual people. I love the legacy that ‘the five’ leave without even knowing how their actions reverberate through the generations of the kids at the Jellicoe school.

The story comes full circle as the hints we are given into the lives of Taylor and the other characters, including the five, all end up coming together to create this story of a community and what it means to have people that you love and count on to hold your world together. I found myself in tears of sadness as the last chapters drew to a close revealing the tragic circumstances of what had been a very close group of broken people who sought and found a family after their own families were torn apart.

I love that the adults of the Jellicoe community, who know the truth, work so hard to protect everyone involved and the secrets, while battling their own demons from the past. I like the way that memories can play tricks on you and the different ways events are perceived by those involved.

There is sadness in knowing that certain characters have felt ripped apart by the things that they know, haunted by history and events they have tried to move on from, but never really wanted to, or had the opportunity to do so due to a sense of responsibility.

On the Jellicoe Road is a story about family, in all its different forms and meanings, with characters that will stay with you long after the last page.

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