Posts tagged ‘melinamarchetta’

May 9th, 2011

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: The Piper’s Son

Author: Melina Marchetta

Published: March 8, 2011 (in the US)

Number of Pages: 336

Rating: 4/5


Melina Marchetta’s brilliant, heart-wrenching new novel takes up the story of the group of friends from her best-selling, much-loved book Saving Francesca – only this time it’s five years later and Thomas Mackee is the one who needs saving.

Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.

But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle’s death.

And in a year when everything’s broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them. [From Goodreads]


[Tara to Tom]”…So either find yourself a good punk band or move on, Tom. Because it kills me to say this, but you’re actually a tiny bit gifted.”

“How would you like it if I said to you, ‘It kills me to say this, but you’re actually a tiny bit beautiful’?” he had asked, pissed off.

She hadn’t said anything then, which was rare for her.

“Would you have been lying?” she said, after a long silence.

“Lying about what?”

More quiet.

“About me being a tiny bit beautiful.”

“[Crap] yeah.”

But later that night he had sent her a message on MSN.

Of course I was lying. The ‘tiny bit’ part anyway.


I know I just reviewed Saving Francesca, so you’re tolerance-bucket is already full to the brim with Melina Marchetta praise, but if you could, I don’t know, cut holes in the bottom of that bucket so I can pour more into it unceasingly, that would be great.

I’m only partially joking.

The Piper’s Son has way more swearing than I’d like, and there’s one scene that I will never read again, but the story beneath is so endearing it’s ridiculous. Thomas Mackee, the goofball, seemingly-shallow-but-deeper-than-most-of-the-boys-you’ll-ever-meet friend in Saving Francesca, was one of my favorite characters. How can you resist sarcastic and clever humor like his? I love the dryness of it – and the fact that he can be so soft when he wants to be. When I found out that The Piper’s Son focuses on him, I was sold.

This book, in my opinion, is even darker and more devastating than Saving Francesca. I thought the Spinellis (Francesca’s family) were a mess, but they don’t even compare to the Finches and Mackees. When you start this book, you might as well be plunging into ice cold, dark water. In fact, that’s where you’d have to go to feel like Tom. Don’t be scared away by the unpleasantness of the situation. It’s worth it. It’s always worth it to cheer for people as they struggle to succeed at life when locking themselves in a room and living off Ramen Noodles would be easier.

This book is so complex, and I’d say it deals with the happiness of thirty characters. It’s incredible how much is stuffed into it. I’ll admit that I got lost occasionally and had some trouble piecing together the bits of the past Tom revealed throughout the book. Still, there’s this beautiful feeling of satisfaction at the end. I felt the struggles and growth so acutely that I almost feel as though I should be proud of myself for making it through.

The Piper’s Son alternates semi-frequently between Tom’s point of view and his aunt Georgie’s. Georgie happens to be 42, and Tom is 21. In other words, this book is definitely not the sort that would appeal to your everyday twelve year old. They wouldn’t appreciate it as much. It’s primarily about people who have lived through a lot, have been forced to handle more than their share of heartbreak and frustration, and are working on making fewer mistakes tomorrow. It’s about getting life in order.

The Mackees and Finches are a family that needs to pull themselves together and stop dreading their memories. I love that they manage to eventually do this through family and friends – through love, really – and that’s just how things are dealt with in Saving Francesca as well. Nothing ends up perfect, but it’s so very satisfying.

Essentially, this sequel is a lot tougher to swallow than Saving Francesca. It’s always sad to see that people have grown apart as they grew older, and a lot of the characters are in that situation (at least in the beginning). Tom makes many of the same mistakes over and over again, but he takes the necessary steps (such as figuring out what an idiot he’s been and contemplating how to deal with that tendency toward idiocy). I also love that he’s not all bad. Never. Almost everybody on the planet has redeeming qualities and a cause for their actions, and he’s not to be excluded. There’s never any doubt that he’s a good person. I just kept waiting for him to realize it.

Overall, The Piper’s Son is an expertly executed, slightly depressing, heart-wrenching, and extremely endearing story.

P.S. Please excuse this really terrible review! Go read Audrey’s. Really.

April 25th, 2011

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Saving Francesca

Author: Melina Marchetta

Published: May 31, 2006

Number of Pages: 243

Rating: 4/5


Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastians, a boys’ school that’s pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas who specializes in musical burping to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about.

Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling who she really is. Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself. [From Goodreads]


I miss the Stella girls telling me what I am. That I’m sweet and placid and accommodating and loyal and nonthreatening and good to have around. And Mia. I want her to say, “Frankie, you’re silly, you’re lazy, you’re talented, you’re passionate, you’re restrained, you’re blossoming, you’re contrary.”

I want to be an adjective again. But I’m a noun.

A nothing. A nobody. A no one.


If I could write ballads or sonnets or, well, anything that resembled poetry and didn’t rhyme something like “party” with “tarty”, I would write a sonnet/ballad/poem that expressed my devoted readership to Melina Marchetta. Goodness knows she deserves it (and deserves better, actually, because it would still probably be terrible). Jellicoe Road blew me away and has since stuck with me. I think of the paths and grounds around the boarding school whenever I visit the land my family owns and imagine building a tree house or fort. I love that feeling I get when I look at something and memories come to me that aren’t mine, but belong to characters in a book. Melina Marchetta creates stories that you feel are yours. Saving Francesca was not a disappointment in this regard (or any other).

There are certain characteristics that hit you right off, such as Melina’s totally amazing (why can’t I think of a better adjective? Even “astounding” and “awe-inspiring” sound cliché.) prose. Next, the expert way she introduces back-story without losing you and manages to flesh out Francesca’s voice in the process. There are just so many things to learn from a writer’s perspective by reading Melina Marchetta’s novel. Even more importantly, there are so many things to admire from a reader’s standpoint as well.

Saving Francesca is undeniably a story of characters. The plot was not the seed of the book, but the characters, and from that sprouts a fascinating web of events and scenes that will keep your eyes locked to the page. I was surprised by how many secondary characters Melina manages to juggle, and though sometimes they blurred for me (that could be credited to how quickly I read it – one afternoon), they added elements to the main plot and additional subplots that the book could not have “lived” without. I absolutely adore the characters in this book. The friendships – specifically the odd but organic development of the friendships – between these characters are inspiring and, honestly, SO CUTE. They have their little animosities, they have their bigger ones, but in the end, they benefit more than they lose from being close.

Francesca’s life has certainly taken a turn for the worst, and by beginning with a drastic change in lifestyle and family, there is so much more room for development and growth and “coming into herself”. I loved watching Francesca as she blossomed – that tight, caved-in, constricted feeling of her personality at the beginning, the cracks that slowly wound their way about her, and the eventual and gradual burst of FRANCESCA! that we’re left with at the end is fabulous.

I think what I really admire about books like this is the fact that they are absolutely bursting with everything that constitutes life. I said something similar about Looking for Alaska, actually. There’s this pull I have toward books that juggle difficult situations in which people are forced to confront every ghastly emotion imaginable. Hatred, frustration, self-loathing, disappointment, guilt, confusion, etc. The more severe the bad feelings, the more gorgeous the good ones. Because of some of the crazy and, admittedly, depressing emotions Francesca and the other characters felt, I got to witness the expansive range of human qualities that fill up our lives, all in 243 pages.

Unfortunately, this book also has a few of the features I dislike – such as swearing and some sexual conversation, but it’s certainly cleaner than Looking for Alaska or Jellicoe Road. It’s so often that the books I really love have this content I despise, and it’s all so confusing. However, it doesn’t feel wrong recommending this book to YA readers 14 or over. If you’re a parent, I’d recommend reading it yourself and then making a decision, but it really isn’t too bad.

Overall, Saving Francesca is all those adjectives I can’t think of. Think synonyms of beautiful, astounding, and exceptional. Better yet, skip all that and think: I need to read this.

June 27th, 2010

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.”


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.