My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Isobelle Carmody is one of my favourite writers, and this speculative fiction novel for children is a beautifully rendered exploration of grief after the loss of a parent.
Greylands tells the story of 12-year-old Jack who is trying to come to terms with the recent death of his mother, as well as deal with the deep grief and depression of his father. The story begins with an “Alice in Wonderland” feel as Jack finds himself drawn into the other side of the mirror, where he meets a mysterious girl who calls herself Alice. Alice is anxious and frightened, running away from the “wolvers” who she claims want to steal her precious package. Throughout the novel, Jack moves in and out of the “real world” and the nightmare world of Greylands, while telling his younger sister, Ellen, about Greylands as a bedtime story, using her favourite book of fairy-tales as a source of inspiration.
A key point that Carmody makes throughout the novel is that some emotions cannot be expressed in concrete terms, or even in words. They must be explored through metaphor, and that for children who are trying to cope with devastating grief, an imagined world provides a way to work through these emotions and move forward from great loss.
Carmody does not shy away from addressing the reality of the death of a parent. Nevertheless this is a gentle story, using beautiful language rich with symbolism, to open up a way into the heart of grief, to face it and move through it. The hopeful ending illustrates that grief, while always present, will fade, and joy in life can be found again. For any child or young teen (or adult for that matter) who is struggling with grief in their lives, no matter what the cause, Greylands is a novel that can help work through and those feelings.
Highly recommended for ages 9 years and up.