Geraldine McCaughrean has been my favourite writer since long before any of my own books were published. (In fact it was reading her adult novels back in the early 1990s which made me start writing novels in the first place.) I've never read a book by her which I didn't like, and when a new one arrives I always read it twice - the first time for the story (which will be be perfectly plotted, while still managing to swerve in completely unexpected directions) the second time just for the pleasure of the way she uses words.
I've only had time for one read of The Middle of Nowhere so far, but I can recommend it without hesitation. Its heroine, Comity, lives in a remote telegraph station in the Australian outback, sometime in the late 19th century. When her mother dies she starts helping her distraught father to transmit telegraph messages. She also makes up messages of her own, trying to conceal from her far-off relatives the truth about her mother's death and about how grim and difficult life on the station has become, especially with the arrival of her father's dangerous new assistant.
Like many McCaughreanian (?) heroes and heroines, Comity is a storyteller. So is her friend Fred, an Aboriginal boy who holds her spellbound with his sometimes wayward versions of tribal myth and mission-school Bible stories. But Geraldine McCaughrean knows that stories can be dangerous things, and Comity's innocent inventions lead to a whole torrent of dangerous misunderstandings.
I think my favourite of Geraldine's children's novels to date is The White Darkness, an adventure set in the Antarctic. In a way, The Middle of Nowhere makes a perfect companion piece, once again pitting its heroine against a pitiless landscape and a sinister older man. As in The White Darkness, there is madness and danger, and some shocking deaths. But it's also funny, and exciting, and extremely beautiful. The strange desert terrain is captured with a cinematic clarity, and the friendship between Fred and Comity is touching and true. And then there are those trademark GM similes and metaphors, whole interlinked chains of them, which seem to go off like strings of firecrackers as you read... She is one of those rare writers whose style is instantly her own, and one thing which links all her very different books together is that only she could have written them.
The other thing, of course, is that they are all exceptionally good. The Middle of Nowhere is no exception.
|Geraldine McCaughrean and Some Geezer at the launch of The Middle of Nowhere|
The Middle of Nowhere is published by Usborne Books, and is available from all good bookshops, including this one.
You can find out more about Geraldine McCaughrean and her writing on her website. She has also recently joined Twitter.