Echo in the Memory (Cameron Nunn, Walker Books)
Cameron Nunn presents an ambitious work of historical fiction in his latest novel Echo in the Memory. Seamlessly telling the stories of two adolescents existing almost 200 years apart, the novel folds the past with the present, the two intersecting in surprising ways. In the present day we meet Will, struggling with a complicated family life. At 15 he is burdened with a troubled mother, a difficult father and the care of a younger sibling. When his mother is suddenly hospitalised, he is sent along with his sister to live with grandparents he barely knows on a remote farm. Back in 1829 we find another 15-year-old on the streets of London, struggling with family problems of his own. An unfortunate series of events finds him reduced to a number, stripped of his freedom and sent to Australia. Far from everything and everyone he knows he must learn to survive the harsh life of a convict in an unfamiliar landscape. A story about identity and belonging and how the present cannot exist without the past, Echo in the Memory is meticulously researched and utterly absorbing. Drawing on court records and transcripts of interviews with convict boys as part of his research, Nunn offers a historically accurate telling that is balanced with strong characters, a compelling narrative and a vivid sense of place. Nunn has created a bold and thought-provoking text that will be valued as a classroom resource and will appeal broadly to YA readers, offering them a fresh look at Australia’s past in a relatable context.
M H Alessandrino is a Perth-based writer and freelance reviewer. Read their interview with Cameron Nunn here.