Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Jellicoe Road

Author: Melina Marchetta

Published: September, 2006 by HarperCollins

Number of Pages: 432

Rating: 5/5

Quote: Please excuse the long quote. I excerpted the entire prologue because it’s brilliance at its purist. Read it. And then read the book, because you’ll be aching for more. Also, this particular bit isn’t from the POV of Taylor (the main character), but from a book within the book that plays a key part in the story.

My father took one hundred and thirty two minutes to die.

I counted.

It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-La. We were going to the ocean, hundreds of kilometres away, because I wanted to see the ocean and my father said that it was about time the four of us made that journey. I remember asking, ‘What’s the difference between a trip and a journey?’ and my father said, ‘Narnie, my love, when we get there, you’ll understand,’ and that was the last thing he ever said.

We heard her almost straight away. In the other car, wedged into ours so deep that you couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. She told us her name was Tate and then she squeezed through the glass and the steel and climbed over her own dead – just to be with Webb and me; to give us her hand so we could clutch it with all our might. And then a kid called Fitz came riding by on a stolen bike and saved our lives.

Someone asked us later, ‘Didn’t you wonder why no one came across you sooner?’

Did I wonder?

When you see your parents zipped up in black body bags on the Jellicoe Road like they’re some kind of garbage, don’t you know?

Wonder dies.”

Review:

There’s something incredibly fantastic about a book you don’t read. It’s an entirely different experience to look at a page and not see words, but pictures – a world that feels so real it could be mistaken for this one. The moment you open the covers of the book and find your place, you are no longer sitting in your living room, on your bed, or in the car. You are living the story.

Jellicoe Road transports you into the world of Taylor Markham, a seventeen year old girl attending Jellicoe School (which, coincidentally, resides right next to Jellicoe Road. See how that works out?). At least, she has been since Hannah Schroeder took her under her wing after her mother abandoned her when she was eleven in the bathroom of the 7-Eleven on Jellicoe Road.

Life at Jellicoe School is consistent, something that Taylor was in dire need of for most of her childhood. It’s not until it’s Taylor’s turn to be head of her dorm and for the territory wars between the Townies, Cadets, and Jellicoe School to resume. Not until Jonah Griggs, head of the Cadets and the occasional pain in the butt, returns for the summer and Taylor is forced to confront their all-too-public past.

When Hannah leaves town suddenly on top of all else, Taylor’s problems seem to expand. Not only must she work worry about Hannah, but Hannah’s manuscript – a story of five friends who lived on Jellicoe Road years before – seems to be taking on a life of its own. And it soon becomes apparent that Taylor’s inexplicably tied to these five friends in the story.

This novel is magic. Its words woven together into something soft, warm, and beautiful. You’re comfortable inside it. Melina Marchetta is a phenomenal writer, and I’m dying to read more of her work. She enchants you with the seamless ease of her words. Sentences flow beautifully from one to the next to the point that you’re not reading word by word or sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph, your reading moment by moment in the story.

I particularly loved the excerpts from Hannah’s book. The moments we spent with the five were splendid. By the time Jellicoe Road was finished with, I was satisfied with Taylor’s story but dying for more of the five’s. I could happily have read an entirely separate novel dedicated solely to them. Both captivate you from moment one. In fact, the prologue of the novel (the quote above) is part of the five’s story and clearly amazing. I’ve read it multiple times because its perfection never ceases to startle me.

Taylor is a great main character. I understood her enough to feel for her, root for her, and be able to like her even when she irritated me (which wasn’t too often). There wasn’t a moment at which I felt like pinching her and telling her to open her darned eyes and see what’s in front of her. Her character enhanced the experience rather than extracting from it. She had some blissfully clever lines, too.

I think the most wonderful thing about the novel was the depth of the story. So many emotions swim murkily beneath the surface of this novel. I laughed, I laughed more, and in the end, I cried. The feelings were so palpable. I could touch them if I reached out my hand.

The characters throughout the novel are as real as the people crowded around me in this plane (and I mean, really, really crowded). I could practically smell them. This book is run by characters. They have the final word in everything. The plot relies on their actions, their feelings. I loved the banter between the friends, particularly between Santangelo – current leader of the Townies – (love. That. Name.) and Griggs. If not for the story or Marchetta’s writing capabilities, read this story for them. They deserve your attention and the love that you will inevitably have for them.

Jellicoe Road is a work of art. The emotion that seeps from every page pries away any guard you have against it until you succumb to the feelings as well. The characters will creep into your being and steal a bit of you away for safekeeping. The writing will seduce you. Live this novel. It’s worth the emotional risk.

2 Commentsto “Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta; Review”

  1. What a beautiful review . I agree on everything you wrote.

  2. Amazing review. I got chills multiple times from the prologue. I love books with books within them. Fortunately, I'm going to the library today and if they have this, I'm gonna check it out. That and I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. Thanks for all of your fantastic recommendations, my SOTPP!

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