All that’s gold doesn’t quite glitter.
Eleven schoolgirls and their teacher go to the local park one normal day in suburban Australia. The goal of their field trip is, as the teacher says, “to think about death.” The year is 1967. Far away, in Melbourne, a man has been hanged. Further away still, the Vietnam War rages.
In the beautiful gardens the children and their teacher meet a man named Morgan. He’s a mysterious and handsome poet, amongst other things. The girls’ teacher, Miss Renshaw, explains that Morgan knows of a secret cave on a neaby beach. Inside there are ancient drawings from the first humans who made it to Australia. Unbeknownst to the school’s headmistress, Miss Renshaw allows Morgan to lead the class to this dark and ominous world. There, everything changes.
This theme of before and after is one of the most alluring aspects of Ursula Dubosarsky’s YA novel The Golden Day. We would perhaps prefer things to be as black and white as dead and alive, but maybe, as some of the girls begin to think following their experience in the cave, there is something in between, a grey area of ghosts and spirits and secrets that float where innocence ends and adulthood begins.
The Golden Day is a very well written novel. Dubosarsky allows the tension to grow organically, occasionally taking the plot on brief soujourns that cleverly add to the sense of morbid mystery. Young schoolgirls make great protagonists, but when they grow up things become a tad tricker, for parents and authors.
No, it’s not metaphors or motifs that the novel lacks, but meat – action, drama, conflict. Were there a touch more of this the book would be pure gold. As it is, The Golden Day is a respectable and enjoyable silver.
Why not also try The Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarsky? Find it on our website now.