The White Girl by Tony Birch – Our Review
The White Girl opens in 1963, the dusty county town of Deane is parched, with the once grand river now running dry. Odette Brown contemplates the shaky foundations of the home she has lovingly built as she looks out over the barren riverbed to Deane’s line – the border which defines the homes of aboriginal settlement from the “good white settlers of Deane”.
Odette is a shining powerful character who loves and fiercely protects her 13-year old granddaughter, Sissy. Abandoned by her mother for dark reasons that later become evident, Odette raises her with great care and gentle wisdom.
But these are precarious times, a dark period in Australian history that will later be defined as ‘the stolen generation’. When a new policeman full of his own importance, comes to town determined to remove fair-skinned children from their families, Odette and some of the kinder townspeople rally together to fight back with a combination of desperation, ingenuity, and what would be now known as street smarts.
You will come to love these characters, not only the wise and proud Odette and the increasingly aware Missy, but the also the immigrant Doctor, the tragically bumbling copper Shea and the young Melbourne clerk who skirts around the law.
This powerfully compelling novel is simply told, yet it resonated with me for weeks afterwards as I contemplated the bravery of Odette and the courageous community- both indigenous and white that hid her, and brings to real life the blindingly shameful web of legislation condoned by the Church and many white Australians that bound our first nation communities. A beautifully crafted novel, told with simplicity and grace that will stay with you forever.
Review by Nicole @ Great Escape Books