Do you remember the books you read to your children? The Cat in the Hat, Slinky Malinki rapscallion cat, and Timid Tim and the Cuggy Theif were part of our end-of-the-day ritual. As a parent, I did not expect the shared reading experiences would continue into adolescence and adulthood. This is why I read the first Twilight book, all of the Harry Potter books, all about Katniss Everdeen and the first few books of the Tomorrow When the War Began series. What a decade!
Revisiting John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began with the Pocket Bookclub was definitely reading outside our usual canon.
The cunttail for Tomorrow when the War Began is Descent into Hell. Acholol-soaked chilli – we made it up and it was okay. We also had a selection of red-themed, chilli-themed food.
Nor are we the target audience for this series of books about rural teenagers fighting a foreign invasion with guerilla tactics. It is far-fetched, right, that is why it is so enticing to be swept away. As an Australian child/teenager to actually believe an invader could capture the adults at the showgrounds while you were on a camping trip would be too frightening. Meanwhile, I learned at this book club meeting, this is the game my daughter and her friends played when they were mucking about in the bush at the back of our neighbourhood.
White Australians have had an unnatural preoccupation with losing this island (never ceded to us in the first place) to some foreign immigrant/refugee/invader. Hence the White Australia Policy, the offensive Yellow Peril, and the inhumane Nauru Regional Processing Centre.
John Marsden has said, ‘I wouldn’t write that book now – not because of a societal view but because of my own horror at the way refugees who have come to Australia have been treated.’
Ellie narrates the Tomorrow series and subsequent Ellie Chronicles, and it is interesting to contemplate that Marsden, a middle-aged man is writing in the voice of a female teenager. We are a bunch of middle-aged and older women who used to be teenagers and we wish we had a female protagonist like Ellie to read when we were younger. As a 12-year-old I was reading Sidney Sheldon and Flowers in the Attic! I didn’t have a clever, capable young woman like Ellie, fixing pumps, driving trucks, blowing up lawnmowers, and fighting for her community. You might think it wrong to look up to a young girl who is a resistance fighter, actually killing people, but do you know the plot of Flowers in the Attic? That is some seriously wrong, utterly enthralling, gothic fiction.
At the heart of Tomorrow When the War Began is the question of good and evil and the grey space in between where moral decisions must be made and it is difficult to distinguish between heroic acts and acts of self-preservation. Whether, indeed, it is unfair for a country like ours to hoard resources while other nations struggle. I can see why my kids’ school gave this book as an end-of-year academic prize.
The Pocket Bookclub raged against a book of literary cocktails that only included quotes from men. We have embarked on a cunttail project, inventing a cunttail for every book we read this year. We are making a literary cunttail book!
Literary Cunttails 2022 is hand drawn by Miriama and includes every recipe. Get a free copy.