14 May 2021 | Children's Fiction, Reading

Elsewhere girls – book review

Last week, I went to the book launch for Elsewhere girls, a middle-grade novel by a pair of well-known Melbourne writers, Emily Gale and Nova Weetman.

Their book was launched at Bargoonga Nganjin, North Fitzroy Library by Leesa Lambert from The Little Bookroom, with sparkling wine and cupcakes, beautifully decorated with images of the characters.

Jane Pearson from Text Publishing introduced the writers. She told us it was a publisher’s dream to have writers of Emily and Nova’s talent approach her with a ‘thing’ they’d written, wondering whether Text would be interested.

Emily and Nova gave us a glimpse into their collaborative writing process with the way they laughed and chatted together. They spoke of their different approaches – Emily’s organised approach versus Nova’s wing-it ways – and their research trip to Sydney, which involved swimming in Wylie’s Baths.

Elsewhere Girls is the story of two swimmers living in different times. Fanny Durack is from the Sydney of 1908 – she lives over a pub with her parents and eight siblings and regularly escapes the chores of skinning rabbits and washing bedlinen by hand to swim instead. Cat Feeney lives in Sydney, 2021, getting up early every morning for squad training, even though she’s not as committed as she should be. Thanks to an old timekeeping watch, they somehow swap bodies and timeframes. While both are swimmers, their lives are different and each girl has a greater understanding of her own life while living someone else’s.

The story is told in first person with alternative chapters from Fan and Cat. Often a dual narrative means a reader will like one character over another. I loved Fanny and Cat equally! Fanny’s general all-round-loveliness and her kind, loud, hard-working family were delightful company and Cat’s uncertainty about her swimming future, and her courage in facing a new home, school and friends makes her an endearing character.

While I am in no way, shape or form a swimmer (I used to pretend to be sick on swimming days at primary school, thanks to a nasty, inappropriate male swimming teacher) I did enjoy all the swimming threads – the beach swimming, Wylie’s Baths, squad training, early starts. It was told so vividly, I could almost smell the chlorine!

This would be a perfect book for a 9-12 year-old reader, particularly sporty kids or those readers who love a time-slip story. Happy reading!

Author interview – Victoria Carless

1 Comment


Will certainly recommend this book, Karen.

I recently read a book for adults “Florence Adler Swims Forever” by Rachel Beanland which some of your blog readers would enjoy. This one set in USA in 1930s concerning swimmer training for a channel swim.

May 14, 2021 at 12:53 pm

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