Voicing The Dead by Gary Crew
Published by Ford Street Publishing
Four-time CBCA Book of The Year winner Gary Crew’s fine novel Voicing The Dead is intriguing. Even though one is aware this book is historical fiction, while reading the story it is difficult to prevent oneself from constantly wondering if the events are really imaginary or if the tale is historical fact...or a mix of both. This is contrived brilliantly by the author.
Targeted at secondary school readers, Voicing The Dead is narrated by a young ‘everyman’, who teases us with an acknowledgement that he deliberately makes the divide between truth and fiction blurred. He believes he is an orphan and says his voice is “enlivened by story rather than blood”, someone who “moves easily through time, and place, and narrative.”
Jack Ireland, a 14-year-old English-born shipwreck survivor tells the book’s readers, “…my story, my life, is not made up of ‘facts’. It is a combination of emotions, senses, longings and fears…none of which can be pinned down on a slab and called ‘fact’.”
Captured by headhunters after a shipwreck, Jack is adopted by Torres Strait Islanders who believe him to be the ghost of their own dead child. He is finally rescued after years of captivity. His sufferings are recorded in the London Times and in his own graphic biography.
Recognising the unknown numbers of women and children throughout history who have been “ignored or silenced by the powers of their time”, Jack sees his story as “giving a voice to the dead”.
Jack asserts that his spirit is present on the shelves of libraries, on the internet and in history itself, reminding us that long-forgotten, downtrodden souls all had a tale to tell.
Voicing The Dead has clearly been based on much historical research by author Gary Crew. It is an exciting, sometimes brutal, poignant, yet ultimately inspiring story of survival.
A great read for secondary students looking for something different in historical fiction.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Gary Crew
Title: Voicing the Dead
Publisher: Ford Street Publishing
Published: August 2015