Welcome to my stop on the blog tour today! I’m thrilled to share my review of this fabulous book!
Abandoned by her mother and seldom visited by her unpredictable, violent father, 10-year-old Justine is raised by her grandfather, Pop – a man tormented by visions of war. Through years of poverty and neglect, Justine finds solace in the staggering natural beauty of the nearby Murray River. But when outside threats infiltrate even this sanctuary, who is there to protect her from danger?
Exposed to a lethal world, Justine must navigate the final years of her precarious childhood alone. She must find ways to endure, she must run when she has to, and, ultimately, she must fight back.
The Choke opens with ten year old Justine playing with her half brothers by the banks of the Murray river. They share brief sparks of happiness and freedom before life deals a cruel hand and snatches it away. Justine lives with her grandfather, Pop, in a remote part of Victoria. Abandoned by her mother as a baby, Justine dreams about spending time with her father, Ray, more and more. Learning lessons only he can teach, laughing at jokes only he can tell, enjoying the warmth and comfort of his love. But Ray isn’t the loving kind. With secrets that can cut lives apart and a vicious streak that prevents those parts ever being put back together, Ray keeps his distance, seldom seeing his children and being the father they need and desperately want.
Justine struggles with school, with understanding the adult world that can be so cold and sharp and finds pockets of comfort in the rivers and woods on Pop’s land. On the banks of the Murray, she has built a den, a place to feel protected, a safety net of sorts when horrors beyond her years come to hurt her. Although Pop loves Justine, he is suspended in constant fear of the past, unable to move forward. His time in the war has left marks nothing can or will ever heal.
When her aunt arrives, Justine instantly senses friction between her and Pop. Something beneath the surface, subtext to their words. She is aware of the tension but she has no name for it, no way of filling in the blanks. Despite all this, Justine adores her aunt and realises she might have a friend and ally in life. But life is even harsher than she has come to know and she will be pulled and stretched into a poor version of herself by loneliness, neglect and fear as events unfold.
The Choke is a gloriously raw, heart-felt book that hooked me instantly. The author depicts her ten year old narrator with a bold, intelligent and strong voice without risking the essence of it, which is a young, sweet, frightened little girl. I loved Justine. As I was reading the book, I formed such a clear-cut image of her in my head. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget her and her strength and spirit. This book does have many sad themes but I would re-read it again and again in a heartbeat. With a wonderful atmosphere and emotional power, this a refreshing and shocking book to devour. Highly recommend.
Raw. Atmospheric. Wonderful.
The Choke by Sofie Laguna is published by Aardvark Bureau in hardback on 28th March 2019.
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About Sofie Laguna
Sofie Laguna originally studied to be a lawyer, but after deciding law was not for her, she moved to Melbourne to train as an actor. Sofie worked for many years as an actor before she began to write – both for children and adults.
Sofie’s second novel for adults, ‘The Eye of the Sheep’ – shortlisted for the Stella Prize – won the 2015 Miles Franklin Award. It has been optioned for both film and theatre. Sofie’s first novel for adults, ‘One Foot Wrong’, published throughout Europe, the US and the UK, was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award. Screen rights have been optioned and Sofie has completed the screenplay.
Sofie’s many books for young people have been published in the US, the UK and in translation throughout Europe and Asia. She has been shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Award, and her books have been named Honour Books and Notable Books by the Children’s Book Council of Australia.
Sofie has just released her third novel for adults, ‘The Choke’, to wide acclaim.
Sofie lives in Melbourne with her husband, illustrator Marc McBride, and their two young sons.
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