Thursday, 26 September 2013

Review: The Water Here is Never Blue: Intrigue and Lies from an Uncommon Childhood a Memoir by Shelagh Plunkett

In the 1970s, Shelagh Plunkett, a teenage girl from Vancouver, travels with her middle-class family to Guyana and Indonesia, where her father, a civil engineer, has been posted to help with those countries’ water systems. On the surface, she lives a protected life, attending girls’ schools run by nuns and surrounded by household staff. But there is also a fearlessness and recklessness in the girl—a hotel tryst at fifteen, swimming with piranhas, and cavorting with monkeys.

The secrecy and double life of this teenager in a foreign land is paralleled by the mysterious comings and goings of her beloved but distant father. Guyana is nationalizing Canada’s bauxite mines, and Indonesians are slaughtering East Timorese a few miles away. Why is their phone tapped, why do they always have to have a suitcase packed, and why is her father working on a water project on a parched island? In The Water Here Is Never Blue, an adolescent comes of age and is indelibly marked by her years abroad. But it is the adult narrator who ultimately struggles with the truth of who her father  was.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 20th 2013 by Viking Canada 
Genre: Memoir/non fiction/ travel

Kristine's Review: 
What did I think of this book? Interesting might be a good word but I'm unsure if that says enough. Plunkett has an amazing and powerfully descriptive way with words that makes you feel like you are there. In the way she describes both Guyana and Indonesia I could vividly see and feel the things she was writing about.
Plunkett's teenage years were definitely unique and I enjoyed reading about what she experienced and how she adapted in these two places that were relatively unknown at the time. I found that her thought process at that age was quite mature but perhaps that could be because of her adult perspective as the narrator. It is most definitely a coming of age story.
 I enjoy reading about different places and not knowing much about Guyana and Indonesia made it all that more interesting. Having said that, this book is not for everyone. If you do not enjoy memoirs this is not the book for you. As much as I did enjoy this book I did struggle a tiny bit getting into it. In my opinion you are better off to skip the prologue because it highlights some of the things that are told in the story and makes you feel like you are reading it twice. On the other hand I very much enjoyed the epilogue where she talks about what has happened in these two places since the time she lived there and reflects back on her beloved father.
As the only blond haired, blue eyed girl (along with her sister) in two very different countries makes for a very different teenage experience and a very unique read!

About the author

Shelagh Plunkett is an award-winning writer and journalist. Her work includes literary non-fiction, fiction, travel writing and arts reportage. She has been published in various Canadian and U.S. journals including The Walrus, enRoute Magazine, Geist Magazine, the Globe and Mail and the Vancouver Sun. In 2007 she won a first in the CBC Literary Awards for creative non-fiction.
 Shelagh currently lives in Montréal, but grew up on the west coast of Canada, in Guyana and on Timor, Indonesia.


Connect with Shelagh Plunkett online  
twitter- @shelaghplunkett 

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