Monday, October 24, 2011

Joy's Review: On the Jellicoe Road

My father took one hundred and thirty two minutes to die.

I counted.

It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-La. We were going to the ocean, hundreds of kilometres away, because I wanted to see the ocean and my father said that it was about time the four of us made that journey. I remember asking, “What’s the difference between a trip and a journey?” and my father said, “Narnie, my love, when we get there, you’ll understand,” and that was the last thing he ever said.

We heard her almost straight away. In the other car, wedged into ours so deep that you couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. She told us her name was Tate and then she squeezed through the glass and the steel and climbed over her own dead – just to be with Webb and me; to give us her hand so we could clutch it with all our might. And then a kid called Fitz came riding by on a stolen bike and saved our lives.

Someone asked us later, “Didn’t you wonder why no one came across you sooner?”

Did I wonder?

When you see your parents zipped up in black body bags on the Jellicoe Road like they’re some kind of garbage, don’t you know?

‘Wonder dies'.


Have you ever been intimidated to write up a review of a book you just read?
Where you scramble to find the right words to best describe the full experience of what you just went through but come up with a page-full of inadequate sentences and ramblings that made little sense?  
This was how I felt when I read Jellicoe Road.
The first few pages of this book confused me. I remember thinking that maybe I was out of my depth and that I should stop and save it for a day when my mind wasn’t so full of cobwebs. But there was just something about Narnie’s silent tenderness that wouldn’t let me stop.
So I read; until the words off the pages became clearer and the characters of the book spoke with determined voices. I read until the book became a movie in my mind’s eye and the heartaches became so visceral that reading became a cycle of starts and stops. But no matter how much time I gave myself, the characters’ miserable plights became even more heartbreaking that I found myself tearfully wondering - why the heck was I putting my heart in an emotional blender?
I am one of those readers who steer clear of angst and reality fiction for the simple fact that I read to escape. My life is real enough. I’d rather read of rainbows and unicorns and slain dragons. But after reading Jellicoe, I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing a whole lot.
Before Jellicoe Road, I read Melina Marchetta’s Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son first. Don’t get me wrong, both books affected me in their own rights. But Jellicoe Road is something else altogether. Once I figured out the elaborate web of this novel, I learned to appreciate the overwrought and emotional journey that Melina Marchetta took me at the time.
I love the way Melina made me fall in love with a character that to some may consider flawed beyond redemption.
Take Tate Markham, for example. She fell apart because the love of her life died; so much so that she couldn’t even stay sober for her child. She abused her body by any means necessary to stay numb. I found her selfish and weak, neglectful of the single person who should’ve been her solace and salvation. But throughout the book, did I feel any contempt against her? The answer is, no. I found it difficult to get angry when all I could feel was her palpable loss. Melina Marchetta's writing is that potent.
I could go on and on about every character in this book, but I’d probably just end up repeating myself anyway.
I read On the Jellicoe Road last May and it’s taken me a while to actually write a proper review. I have been re-reading this on days when not a single book on my shelf looks enticing. I can honestly say that asking me to pick which of Melina Marchetta’s work is my favorite is like asking me to pick which of my two children do I love more. It’s just wrong.
This is an award-winning book that rightfully deserves all the accolades it’s been getting. As for this review, all I can say is, I tried my best.

- I rated this 5/5 Stars.


  1. i loved the book too. loved it!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. it is heart-breaking and gut-wrenching, isn't it? but I still love it, and can re-read it and appreciate it more each time.

  3. Yes, I'm always intimidated when writing a review for MM's novels. lol Wonderful review, Joy! X3

    "I love the way Melina made me fall in love with a character that to some may consider flawed beyond redemption."

    I know, right?! It's amazing how she does that. We see that a lot in Froi of the Exiles.

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