Set in a 1960s Australian school before the days of safeguarding, this is the story of one class of small girls taken out of school by their teacher in the cause of outdoor learning. The story becomes increasingly threatening as the girls are led out of the public gardens where they normally work, onto the beach below and finally into a gloomy and forbidding cave. Scared by the dark and the unfamiliarity of it all, the girls flee back out into the light, but their teacher doesn’t follow. Bewildered and puzzled, the girls eventually return to school alone. As a Lost Person alert becomes a murder enquiry, the girls, with one exception, form a bond of silence which lasts throughout their childhood.
The greatest strength of this book is the unique quality of the prose. Rich in imagery, its ephemeral quality conveys things half understood as the girls watch and wonder, trying to make sense of what they glimpse. The narrative asks many more questions than it answers and leaves the reader with a strange sense of unease, struggling to explain things partly seen. Did Miss Renshaw really return, or did the ever-impressionable Bethany see a ghost? Who is Amanda and what is her relationship with Icara’s father? What really happens when Icara rows Cubby out onto the lake?
Bridging the gap between children’s and YA fiction, this book is suitable for 11+ readers and would be enjoyed by anyone who likes to read quirky books with more than a hint of psychological thriller about them.