Random House. Adult/Junior Fiction. Hardcover RRP $49.95
Reviewed by Sandy Fussell
Two kids. Two cultures. An ending you won’t expect.Mau is on his way home from
Ermintrude, who decides she would rather be called Daphne, is shipwrecked in the tidal wave that destroys the Nation. She is the only survivor but soon discovers there is someone else on the island.
Initially, Mau and Daphne have nothing in common. She is a distant descendant of the English king, a child of privilege and money. Mau is an islander boy who has led a life isolated from the world outside Nation’s island archipelago. To him, Daphne is a ghost girl, one of the ‘trousermen’. To Daphne, Mau is a savage.
As they struggle to overcome the language barrier, they soon realise they share more important things – resourcefulness, tolerance, and compassion. Daphne learns the ways of the Nation and Mau even tries on a pair of trousers. As other people find their way to the island, Mau and Daphne find themselves rebuilding the Nation. It’s not easy. There are many obstacles to overcome – the growing group, cannibalistic sea raiders and mutineers and the ethereal voices of the grandfathers insisting on telling Mau what to do.
Inspired by the eruption of Krakatoa and with a touch of the Atlantis legend, Nation is a satire expertly wrapped in humorous story-telling. Themes of nationhood, coming of age, religious belief and identity are explored but never at the expense of the story. From beginning to end, this is a wonderful read.