Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A Fortunate Life

Over the last few weeks, I have been reading and screening books for the children's book club I run. Next term's theme is Antarctica and Oceania. One of the books that I have read, A Fortunate Life, was already sitting on our bookshelves but I had never read completely before.
A Fortunate Life (Puffin story books)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"A Fortunate Life" is the life story of Albert Facey who was born in Victoria in 1894 but spent most of his life in Western Australia.

Albert's childhood was characterised by dreadful poverty and the desertion of his mother leaving Albert in the care of his grandmother. Due to the family's financial situation, Albert went out to work aged eight, sadly, to a home where he was used a slave labour and eventually, beaten so severely that he almost died. Albert has many further adventures: another settler who doesn't pay him; a couple who want to adopt him; cattle herding in the outback and well digging in dreadfully dangerous conditions. Albert meets his mother again who seems more interested in his money than her son. 

At the start of World War One, Albert was twenty and volunteered. He was sent to Gallipoli where he fought in the trenches before being severely injured and invalided home. Once home from the War, Albert meets a previously unknown girl who had knitted the socks sent to him at the front and marries her.

This is a fascinating book. I learned much about Australia that I hadn't known before but the poignancy of a  child sent out to work with no one to look out for them and no way of obtaining an education, will stay with me for a long time. 

This is a children's edition. I haven't read the original version. I had hoped that this edition would be suitable for a book club for children aged 8 to 12. Sadly, I think that it would be better for teenagers. The physical abuse at the first job and the description of the First World War conditions in Gallipoli are probably better kept for older children. So to continue the hunt for books!

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