“It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-La.”
– Melina Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta has to be one of the most heartbreaking stories I have ever read. It doesn’t sound that bad, with mentions of clubhouses, school, homework, teachers and references to To Kill a Mockingbird and Where the Wild Things Are. I don’t think there is an author who is as hard on their characters as Marchetta is, but she is there for them when it counts, gently steering them towards hope.
Taylor Markam is a boarder at the Jellicoe School. In her final year, Taylor is appointed the head of house, a greater burden than it should be. Taylor is incredibly troubled and complex after being abandoned by her mother on the Jellicoe Road when she was eleven years old. She has an aversion to adults after a long list of them fail to live up to her expectations. Hannah is the only adult she has any faith in but when she leaves, Taylor is left to pick up the pieces.
To make matters worse, Taylor must defend the boarders of the Jellicoe School! The Cadets are in town – led by the mysterious Jonah Griggs – and they are ready to fight. The territory wars between the Cadets and the Townies have been raging for sixteen years ever since the original gang were in town. Somehow this group of five are connected to the dramas unfolding in the book.
As previously mentioned, Marchetta is really quite hard on her characters but her strengths as a writer lay within them. They are the force of the story and while there are many plot lines to unfold, and Marchetta certainly takes her time threading them together, however the characters and the reader are rewarded for their patience. She tells such a beautiful story; her characters are always questioning ‘where do I belong’ or ‘where do I fit in the world’ but Marchetta never leaves them on their own. Whether or not they realise it, she gives them the tools they need to make their way. I love everything about this book; the emotion is real and the heartache lives on, well after the final page.