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I discovered ‘Walkabout’ by James Vance Marshall, when I was browsing books in the children / YA literature section of the bookshop recently. When I read the blurb, I discovered that the story was set in Australia. It looked quite enticing and so I thought that I will get it and read it. I started reading it yesterday evening and finished it in one sitting. Here is the review. I will say something here before I continue. Please pardon me for the length of my review. I tend to write more about things that I like. I hope that is a good excuse 🙂

Summary of the story

I am giving below the summary of the story as given in the back cover.

Mary and Peter are the only survivors of a plane crash in the middle of the Australian desert. They are exhausted and starving when they meet an Aboriginal boy who helps them to survive. But an inevitable clash of cultures leads to a tragic misunderstanding.

Julia Eccleshare says this in her introduction to the book :

At its heart this is a story of survival – two children, stranded in the Australian outback when their plane crashes, must find food, water and shelter if they are to stay alive – but Walkabout is also much, much more than that. It’s a journey of emotional enrichment that takes Mary and Peter from knowing only the simple stereotypes of their upbringing to a new appreciation of a great deal that was previously unknown.

What I think

I enjoyed reading ‘Walkabout’ very much. It was an undiscovered treasure for me. James Vance Marshall’s prose is easy to read and the story is interesting from the beginning till the end. The book reminded me in some ways of ‘The Coral Island’ by R.M.Ballantyne (it was one of my favourite books, when I was in school) – because that was also a story of children who were stranded in an island. The difference was that in ‘Walkabout’ the children are stranded in the middle of a continent, and this part of the continent is so desolate, that it is similar to being stranded in an island. There is a description of this in one of the early chapters, which goes like this.

Sturt Plain, where the aircraft had crashed, is in the centre of the Northern Territory. It is roughly the size of England and Wales combined; but instead of some 45,000,000 inhabitants, it has roughly 4,500, and instead of some 200,000 roads, it has two, of which one is a fair-weather stock route. Most of the inhabitants are grouped around three or four small towns – Tennant Creek, Hooker Creek, and Daly Waters – which means that the rest of the area is virtually uninhabited. The Plain is fourteen hundred miles from Adelaide and is not a good place to be lost in.

It is quite interesting that, though we think today, that most of the world is known and is inhabited by people, there are parts of the world which are still uninhabited and are desolate and wild. ‘Walkabout‘ was published fifty years back, and so things might have changed today in Northern Territory, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still desolate and wild lands out there. (more…)

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