The Lucky Galah

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Harry Hartog. As soon as I saw the title, and read the blurb, I was sold.

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“The Lucky Galah” by Tracy Sorensen is a historical novel set in Western Australia that is partly told from the perspective of a galah called Lucky. In 1964, a man called Evan Johnson drives across Australia with his wife Linda and daughter Johanna to work on a coastal tracking station ahead of the 1969 moon landing. They move into a new purpose-built house next to the Kelly family, a seamstress and fisherman with plenty of daughters. Marjorie and Linda become friends after the birth of Marjorie’s fifth child, and Johanna finds herself with an instant pack of friends. However, through the eyes of the Kellys’ pet galah, things aren’t as hunky dory in the Johnson family as they may seem.

This is a pretty delightful debut novel and I have to say, I was absolutely in love with Lucky the galah as a narrator. I adored Lucky’s perspective of the world, the way that Sorensen wove in facts about birds through Lucky and the relationship between Lucky and Lizzie. I really enjoyed the balance between bird behaviour and a knowledgeable narrator, and I thought it was a great way to foster empathy for a non-human narrator. I also really liked Lizzie, and I think my favourite parts of the books were the interactions between this unlikely pair. Lizzie was a great example of how an Aboriginal character can be depicted in a respectful and interesting way, and I would have liked a lot more Lizzie airtime. Essentially though, there are a lot of similarities between this book and the great classic Aussie film “The Dish” so if you enjoyed that take on a very particular time in Australia’s history and the interaction between scientists and the salt of the earth.

However, there were a couple of things that I wasn’t quite as enamoured with. I wasn’t particularly interested in Evan and Linda’s story, and the ending in that regard was ambiguous where I felt like Sorensen could have taken a bit of a stronger stance either way and made a bit more of a point. I also felt like the relationship between Marjorie and Linda could have been hashed out a bit more. Sorensen did explore some issues around class difference, but this again felt unresolved at the end and I thought there was scope for Linda to have reconciled those differences. Finally, the transmissions from the dish to Lucky I found to be maybe a little too experimental. I can see how they were a useful mechanism for keeping Lucky as the narrator but keeping the story focused on the Johnsons and the Kellys. However, I think I would have almost preferred a more linear narrative but all just through Lucky’s eyes. Maybe there were just a few too many things vying for attention.

To be honest, I think Lucky was a brilliant character and I would have loved an entire book from Lucky’s perspective. As it is, this was still a strong and interesting novel that wove in many different issues around an exciting part of Australia’s history and I think most people will enjoy this quirky debut.

9 Comments

Filed under Advanced Reading Copies, Australian Books, Book Reviews, Historical Fiction

9 responses to “The Lucky Galah

  1. I love the sound of this too … have been hearing a little about it. A galah as a narrator sounds delightful. I also rather like stories set in the 1960s. Why, though, do you think she set the story then rather than now?

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    • I think she had an idea around the tracking station just prior to the moon landing, and building the story around that. Parrots can be quite long lived, so the story kind of jumps between Lucky of the present and Lucky of the past. I’ll be very interested to see what you think!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I wanted to encompass the moon landing, which I lived through as a small child in a small town rather like the one depicted here. Also – the book is a riff on The Lucky Country, which came out in 1964. Sections of the book are set in more recent times to give a sense of the arc of Australian social life since Horne’s observations.

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  2. Beautiful review! Thank you so much. Your criticisms are spot on! I agree – these are areas not quite resolved. I love that you loved Lizzie & Lucky – makes me want to perhaps go in for prequel and or sequel to flesh them out. Lizzie has an enormous back story.

    Liked by 1 person

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