The Silent Kookaburra is set in Wollongong, Australia, and features 11-year-old Tanya Randall and her family. Her mother longs for another child, but has suffered from multiple miscarriages, until, having almost given up hope, she gives birth to Shelley.
Life seems good, but then tragedy strikes the Randall family. Now, all Tanya can do is watch the family collapse around her, unable to do anything to help, and so it comes as something of a boon when Tanya meets her Uncle Blackie, who she didn’t even know existed. Her family refuse to speak about him, but at least she has someone to turn to as her family is torn apart.
The Silent Kookaburra is set predominantly in the 1970s, although it starts and ends with Tanya, now grown up, in the present day. I loved the evocation of Australia at the time, both in terms of the native flora and fauna as well as political views and attitudes of the time. Much of this comes from Tanya’s grandmother, Nanna Purvis, who holds traditional values and doesn’t like Tanya hanging out with the Italian family that she’s convinced are mobsters.
I have to admit that Nanna Purvis was, despite her abrupt attitude and borderline racism, my favourite character in the novel. She’s a strong lady, and will do anything to protect her family, and it’s her that is there for Tanya as things come crashing down. Tanya evokes a great deal of sympathy, as she’s caught up in matters that she doesn’t fully understand. She concerned about her weight, which has resulted in bullying from her classmates, but comfort eats to get through the day. It is therefore completely understandable that she is swept along by her Uncle Blackie, who appears from nowhere and seems to understand her completely. The reader can see that something isn’t quite right there, and I read on with my heart in my mouth as things became worse for Tanya and her family.
The Silent Kookaburra is told entirely from Tanya’s perspective. I always think that the author is taking a risk when telling events solely from a child’s point of view, although Perrat pulls it off with aplomb. The reader can see what is happening, and can infer more than Tanya can understand, although, like all children, she understands more than those around her give her credit for.
There are multiple elements to the story, but Perrat manages to pull them altogether into one cohesive story that has a twist at the end that I would never have guessed. Whilst I don’t want to spoil the novel at all, it’s worth noting that there are a few scenes that some readers may feel uncomfortable with. Whilst I felt that these scenes were tastefully handled and weren’t gratuitous in any way, they do deal with some unpleasant subject matter.
The Silent Kookaburra is available to purchase now in digital and paperback formats. Many thanks to Liza Perrat for providing a copy for review.