The Telegram by Philippa Werry
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
The Telegram is historical fiction aimed at children aged 10 – 14 years. The plucky protagonist of the book, fourteen-year-old Beatrice Thomas lives with her widowed mother and younger sister Tilly in a small New Zealand town during the First World War. Their lives have been greatly impacted since Beatrice’s father died, so much so, that Beaty is forced to leave school and get a job so they can make ends meet. Beaty gets a job as a telegraph girl at the Post and Telegraph Office. It’s a difficult job, especially when some of the telegrams contain the worst news – that one of the many young men away fighting has been killed.
Beaty has to contend with telegraph boys who don’t think girls should be doing this work, finding her way around town in a timely fashion, and bracing herself for the reaction from a telegram that might have devasting news for the addressee. Meanwhile, the letters she is getting from her friend Caleb, away fighting on the front, are becoming darker and darker – and then he goes missing.
The Telegram is beautifully structured in a way that takes the reader through World War One from a small town perspective, showing the sacrifice and grief, right through to the peace celebrations when the Armistice is announced. It’s heartbreaking when Beaty has to deliver telegrams now telling of deaths by influenza, and influenza threatens her mother’s life and others in their small community.
Beaty is a delightful character, a wonderful heroine who is real and inspiring. At times the novel is heartbreaking, but I also enjoyed the gentle humour in other places, especially from Beaty’s younger sister, Tilly, with her younger thoughts on the world. The Telegram is definitely recommended.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
Pipi Press, RRP $23.00