The past is always close behind.
In 1982 Victorian police were called to a home on a housing estate an hour west of Melbourne. There, they found a five-year-old boy lying on the carpet. There were no obvious signs of trauma, but the child, Jacob, died the next day.
The story made the headlines and hundreds attended the funeral. Few people were surprised when the boy’s mother and her boyfriend went to prison for the crime. Police declared themselves satisfied with the result, saying there was no doubt that justice had been done.
And yet, for years rumours swept the estate and clung like cobwebs to the long-vacant house: there had been a cover-up. The real perpetrator, at least according to local gossip, was the boy's six-year-old sister, Lauren…
Twenty years on, Lauren has created a new life for herself, but details of Jacob’s death being to resurface and the story again makes the newspapers. As Lauren struggles with the ghosts of her childhood, it seems only a matter of time before the past catches up with her.
About The Author
Caroline Overington is a two-time Walkley Award-winning journalist who is currently a senior writer and columnist with The Australian. She is the author of two non-fiction books, Only in New York and Kickback which is about the UN oil-for-food scandal in Iraq. Since then she has had her first novel Ghost Child published in October 2009 to great acclaim.
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Comments about Ghost Child:
A couple of months ago, I read Caroline Overington's historical documentary, Last Woman Hanged, the bloody story of Louisa Collins, mother of ten, hanged at the new Darlinghurst Gaol in 1889. Thoroughly researched and professionally written, I found it a compelling read. When I told relatives about it, they asked if I'd read Overington's novel Ghost Child. I said no; they provided me a copy to read. Its cover advises:
In 1982, "…Victorian police were called to a home (and) found a five-year-old boy lying still and silent on the carpet… the boy died the following day." The boy's mother and her boyfriend went to prison for the crime but rumours about a cover-up continued to sweep the housing estate where it happened. The rumours suggested the real perpetrator was the boy's six-year-old sister, Lauren. The dead boy was Jacob, with other siblings a younger brother, Harley, and an infant sister, Hayley.
The story takes us through a twenty-year period and is told in the words of the people involved. The first of these is the now adult Lauren, living and working in Sydney. Through circumstances, Harley finds his sister after many years' separation. From this point, we are taken back and forth through the family's life journeys.
We meet Detective Senior Sergeant Brian Muggeridge, a likable family man who's a concerned and caring cop; the Reverend John Ball, weak and ineffectual; Frank Postle, an old-fashioned type, a reporter who cares for the people behind a story; Elizabeth Costa, a social worker who believes the system works as it should; Karen McInerny, a foster carer, strict and straight but not unkind, up to a point; Ruby Porter, another carer, both huge and hugely likable, an 'everyone's mum.'
The story develops through the eyes and the words of these people and others, much of the direction coming from the children themselves. Potential exists for a story told in this way to become disjointed but Overington maintains a logical progression; the developmental theme is maintained throughout and holds the reader's interest.
Ghost Child is a sad story, thought provoking. The theme is dark in many ways, and raises a lot of questions as it goes, some of which are answered. Beyond that, it provides a springboard to further investigate child abuse, family breakdown, fostering, child protection, and other welfare situations.
Read this with an open mind. I found it of special interest because of parallels to a family situation in the 1950s: A father committing suicide, a mother (my aunt) dying in childbirth, the separation of family with all five children, including the newborn baby and twin three-year-old girls, sent to five different foster families. All of the children live to this day but the psychological problems they suffer can be sheeted home to the circumstance of their separation.
I enjoyed Ghost Child, its format, its story, its writing. I ordered the sequel, I Came To Say Goodbye, this morning and keenly await its arrival. Oh, by the way, if you are one of those strange people who reads the last page of a book first… Don't!
Comments about Ghost Child:
This is a great book well worth the read. I recommended this book to a co worker who also bought it.
Number Of Pages: 384
Published: 1st October 2010
Publisher: Transworld Publishers (Division of Random House Australia)
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 12.5 x 19.7 x 2.5
Weight (kg): 0.27
Edition Number: 2