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When the Ground Is Hard - Malla Nunn

When the Ground Is Hard

By: Malla Nunn

Paperback | 3 June 2019

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A stunning and heartrending mystery set in a Swaziland boarding school about two girls of different castes who bond over a shared copy of Jane Eyre.

Adele loves being one of the popular girls at Keziah Christian Academy. She knows the upcoming semester at school will be great with her best friend Delia at her side. Then Delia dumps her for a new girl with more money, and Adele is forced to share a room with Lottie, the school pariah, who doesn't pray and defies teachers' orders.

As they share a copy of Jane Eyre, Lottie's gruff exterior and honesty grow on Adele, and together they take on bullies and protect each other from the vindictive and prejudiced teachers. When a boy goes missing on campus, Adele and Lottie must work together to solve the mystery, in the process learn the true meaning of friendship.

About the Author

Born and raised in Swaziland on the far edges of the British Empire, Malla Nunn attended a boarding school specially set up for 'mixed race' children. The students at the school spent their time learning the Bible, breaking the rules, and then lying about it. In common with most colonial institutions, stealing, fighting, and violence were common. It was in this charged atmosphere that Nunn developed a fascination with bad behaviour, risk and punishment.

After her family migrated to Australia to escape apartheid, Nunn graduated with a double degree in English and History and then earned a Master of Arts in Theater Studies from Villanova University. Faced with a life of chronic under-employment, she dabbled in acting and screenwriting. She wrote and directed three award-winning films, including Servant of the Ancestors, which won Best Documentary awards at film festivals in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Zanzibar, and was shown on national television in Australia. She married in a traditional Swazi ceremony. Her bride price was eighteen cows. She now lives and works in a weatherboard house with a tin roof and an olive tree in the garden in Sydney, Australia.
Industry Reviews

'Nunn's captivating first novel for young readers has all the hallmarks of a beloved classic.' Adelaide Advertiser

'The gorgeous imagery sets the scene wonderfully, and there is mention of the religious and geographical colonization represented in the book, the hazy morals of the adults, and the relationships between black, white, and mixed-race citizens of Swaziland, but the narrative doesn't dig too deeply into these subjects. An engrossing narrative that gently but directly explores complex relationships.' Kirkus Reviews

'Excellent writing and an evocative setting make this novel a standout. The racism that Adele and Lottie experience, where a small white minority holds disproportionate power, as is common in formerly colonized places, will feel both familiar and revelatory for many readers. And the transformative power of literature, demonstrated by two girls in Africa thrilling to the adventures of an impoverished girl in nineteenth-century England, also works its magic on readers of Adele's story.' Booklist

'[A] taut novel chronicling Lottie's strength of character and Adele's transformation. Adele unravels class and racial discrimination, turns envy into self-compassion, and reconceives friendship in terms of sharing rather than one-upmanship, with ripple effects all around her. VERDICT Recommended for fans of Laura Amy Schlitz and Nnedi Okorafor, who will relish the storytelling, adventure, and spiritual depth.' Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City, School Library Journal

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