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Faraway Girl by Fleur Beale



Fleur Beale is a true icon of New Zealand literature. Her novels and short stories have resonated with kiwis and international audiences for many years. Faraway Girl is the new offering from Beale which heads more towards fantasy with the development of a connection between Etta and a ghostly apparition.


Beale’s imagery is wonderfully rich and when we, as readers, first meet Constance - the apparition - the description of the moment is evocative and so poignant. Beale really is the master of the description as she encourages the reader to really ‘see’ the whole scenario playing out. The straightforward writing just adds to the whole experience. It is a remarkable feat to get such definition in the characters, and such a cohesive narrative arc, while maintaining a level that is easily accessible to teenagers.

The science fiction-y style of time travel between the world of Constance in the 1800s and Etta in the modern era really piqued my interest. That era has become increasingly popular with New Zealand writers, but none quite give the real immersive experience as Fleur Beale achieves in this one.


Each time frame interweaves the lives of the two girls as they struggle to find the answers to the big questions each has - why is there such an impact on Etta’s brother? What is the significance of the painting that Etta was posing for? Each explores the other’s world and becomes part of the answer in their own unique way. The girls offer perspective to the other and remind them of what is important, no matter the time frame. One can certainly see the fear and concern in the mind of Constance as she comes to terms with the new world around her, and yet it is Etta who lifts Constance up in her 1800s world - empowering her to make decisions and take some more control.


From the descriptions of the situations that the characters are thrust into, to the cadence of the language that each of the girls speak, this novel is really a masterclass on quality writing with a science fiction bend but a heart for connection across the ages. However, above all, the tight composition of the third person limited perspective offers unique insights into the minds of these two strong female protagonists, accentuating their thoughts and emotions with clarity and development.


Overall, the writing is among some of Beale’s finest and demonstrates that she has so much to offer to the literary canon of New Zealand writing. Truly a plot driven page turner that will keep young people coming back for more.


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Penguin