Tuesday, 23 July 2019
"The wolf is not the only hunter........." SHEPHERD by Catherine Jinks
Whenever there are awards for books that grab your attention from beginning to end, then SHEPHERD by Catherine Jinks, has got to always be a contender!
Tom Clay is just a boy, just 14 years old, but the life he's led and the trials he faces, are so far from that of the average 14 year old today, it's hard to comprehend.
At the age of 12, he became a convict, transported to New South Wales when caught poaching in Suffolk. He'd been taught to keep quiet, a necessary skill when poaching, and it was to stand him in good stead for all that lay before him. This seemed to be the only positive thing he got from his father, himself a poacher.
At 14, he was sent to a shepherd's hut out west of Sydney, to protect the master's sheep from wild dogs. Surrounded by violent men, he kept to himself, having greater affinity with his dogs...Gyp and Pedlar.
I loved the depiction of the first encounter Tom had with kangaroos ...
" Though I'd heard tell of 'em, I hadn't believed such wild tales. I thought the old lags were toying with fresh meat. But when our rattling cart scattered half a dozen big grey beasts on the road and I saw 'em bob away like the bastard spawn of a deer and a rabbit -- well, after that, I was ready to believe anything I heard about this place."
The master was Mr. Barrett, not a man to get on the wrong side of, though he could be fair at times, but as a magistrate, he wasn't averse to handing out 50 lashes. Tom did his best never to draw attention to himself. Barrett trusted him, but how he could trust Dan Carver, was beyond Tom. Carver was a murderer and a vengeful man.. and set about ridding himself of all around him.
From then on, it would take all Tom's wits to avoid and out think Carver whenever he can... his life and that of Rowdy would depend on it. Sheer madness was pitted against a young boy in a foreign land, living off his knowledge of nature and trying to relate it to this strange landscape. I felt Tom's frustration when trying to keep Rowdy quiet, but also sympathised with Rowdy for having to voice his fears...
I found my heart in my mouth so many times and just when I thought the worst was over, the pace became even faster and more horrifying. There are moments of great emotion and of anger and sheer disbelief. Catherine Jinks is an artist of words and emotions and depicts a side of convict life in colonial Australia that most will not have encountered.
The byline on the cover couldn't be more apt.
I can't wait to read more of this award winning author's works and I thank Text Publishing for sending me the book.