On the Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

On the Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

Title: On the Jellicoe Road
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Publication Date: 28th August 2006
Pages: 290
Rating: 5/5 stars

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I’m dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.

Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs – the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.

And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor’s only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother – who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

The moving, joyous and brilliantly compelling new novel from the best-selling, multi-award winning author of Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca.

I discovered Melina Marchetta in high school. We were made to read Looking for Alibrandi (which is good, but not my favourite), my librarian recommended Saving Francesca (which I absolutely adored – Francesca was much more like me than Josie Alibrandi!) But neither of these books could top the passion I felt for On the Jellicoe Road.

While I didn’t recognise it then, On the Jellicoe Road was my first foray into magic realism, which is now one of my favourite genres. These are the books that speak to me – based in reality but still with a sense of the spiritual, enough to convince me that magic is real (which I really, truly, desperately would like it to be!)

Our protagonist in On the Jellicoe Road is Taylor Markham, leader of the boarders at her school. In addition to the typical teenage problems, Taylor must lead the boarders in the Territory Wars, a game played between the Townies, the Cadets and the Boarders, without the knowledge of any adults. Taylor also has a murky past, abandoned as a child, witness to a madman’s suicide, and a mysterious runaway experience with Jonah Griggs.

The story runs in a dual narrative. We have Taylor’s story in addition to that of five kids living on the Jellicoe Road – Narnie, Tate, Webb, Fitz and Jude. Their narrative is almost dream-like and their friendship is too beautiful for words. Only Melina Marchetta manages to find those words!

Having recently re-read the story, there isn’t much I can talk about, since my favourite moments would give away some major plot points. I cried like an absolute maniac – should have taken a photo of my face! It is devastating and heartening all in the same breath and one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. Some of the lines just stick with you forever – if you have read it, that Jonah Griggs line about the train! If you haven’t, you will know as soon as you read it! It was interesting to reread a book I loved as a pre-teen. I was more deeply affected during the reread, possibly because of the memories the book holds? While I am not entirely sure why this was, I believe I loved the story even more the second time around!

The cover I have is pretty old, and not available to buy anymore! I don’t like the new Australian cover (with the girl in pink) but I absolutely adore this American version (with the poppy)! I know we say not to trust a book by its cover, but beautiful covers always make me happy!

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I was fortunate enough to meet Melina Marchetta on Saturday 15th November through an event held by Better Read than Dead in Newtown (see their website here). It was a marvellous High Tea, with beautifully set tables and delectable cakes – all for only $10. It was my first foray into their events, but I will definitely be on the lookout for the rest of their offerings!

I took my little sister along, as she was the one who really fostered my love for Melina Marchetta, and On the Jellicoe Road in particular. It was so nice sharing the experience with Sophie, the person I shared the experiences of Marchetta’s stories with.

The most exciting news garnered from the event was that there is a strong chance the film version of On the Jellicoe Road will go into production soon! They have already spoken to some actors about casting, particularly for the characters of Jonah Griggs, Ben Cassidy and Jude! Melina was pleased to tell the audience that they are all very talented, and all very good looking! Everybody keep your fingers crossed, because this could be truly excellent!

Soph and I bought a whole stack of books (see photo below) and I am looking forward to reliving the stories I love and reading those which I haven’t (The Piper’s Son and Finnikin on the Rock).

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Have any of you ever rediscovered a favourite childhood author? Did the stories affect you any differently rereading them at a different point in your life?

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One thought on “On the Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

  1. I try not to read a book twice however I have read Wilbur Smith Hungry as the Sea several times and have loved it each time.

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