Sometimes, when a book or a move are overhyped, I brace for impact, expecting my experience with it to be a letdown. Thankfully, this was not the case with Melina Marchetta’s critically acclaimed Jellicoe Road, which was released in 2006 in Australia and then in 2008 here in the States —interestingly enough, the Australian release is called On The Jellicoe Road, and I have no idea why they dropped the preposition. The book is at points both stark and dream-like, and Marchetta does a wonderful job of balancing wistful, almost ethereal, instances of then with sturdier, wry instances of now. And she also pulls no punches with the issues of violence, death and abuse.
Taylor Markham has lived at the Jellicoe School ever since her junkie mother dumped her off at a 7/11 and left her to be cared for by the mysterious Hannah, who has a house near the school’s property. Every year, the kids from the Jellicoe School fight a war for territory with the Townies and the Cadets who camp nearby for a term. When it comes Taylor’s turn to lead, stories that hold the key to her past follow. Tough to the point of almost reveling in her solitude, Taylor’s journey on the Jellicoe Road opens her up to surprising friendships, a romance and learning what family means to her.
It’s hard to talk about the book without giving too much away, because part of the joy of reading it was making each connection and having an “ah-ha!” moment. And I want to go back and reread it over and over to catch the things I didn’t grab the first time around. In fact, while reading I kept flipping back to check things. It’s a book that made me laugh, that made my throat tighten up, and also really engaged my brain.
This copy has to go back to the library, but I’m definitely buying my own as soon as possible, so that I may travel down the Jellicoe Road with Marchetta’s memorable characters and engaging story over and over again.