I am going to post about my impressions of The Night They Stormed Eureka by Jackie French.
Here is the book blurb:
It's 1854 and, on the Ballarat goldfields, men are willing to risk their lives to find freedom and make their fortunes in the mine.
Sam, a homeless teenager, is called back to the past to join the Puddlehams, who run 'the best little cook shop on the diggings'. The Puddlehams dream of buying a hotel with velvet seats, while others dream of freedom from the government with its corrupt officials and brutal soldiers.
As the summer days get hotter, and the miners' protests are ignored with catastrophic results, Sam experiences first-hand the power of a united stand, which will change her life forever.
Jackie French's fresh look at an event entrenched in our nation heritage will touch and surprise every reader.
First an introduction. I had heard of Jackie French, but must confess that I often would get her confused with an Australian actress called Jackie Weaver. Last year, I participated in Book Smugglers YA Appreciation month, and asked for recommendations for YA historical fiction, and for YA by Australian authors. It must have been while I was visiting other participants that I discovered that Jackie French who met both criteria, and so I had to request a book from the library catalogue by her!
What I didn't realise when I first requested the book, is that this was actually a time travel novel. When we first meet Sam, she is a very unhappy, lonely teenage runaway. She is hiding in the cemetery and finds herself curled up on a gravestone of a couple called the Puddlehams. When she wakes up, she finds herself in a very different time and place - the Victorian Goldfields during the 1850s.
The goldfields are no place for a young girl, and Sam soon finds herself pretending to be a boy, and being taken under the wing of Mr and Mrs Puddleham. Mr Puddleham used to be a butler for Queen Victoria before he followed Mrs Puddleham to Australia. They quickly realised that they wouldn't make their fortune by panning for gold, but rather that they could make enough money to follow their dreams by running a cookshop on the diggings, or rather, the best cookshop on the diggings.
Sam is soon drafted in to help in the cookshop, and soon begins to make friends - not only with the Puddlehams, but also with the eccentric former professor, and a local half-caste boy. She finds it difficult to equate some of the things that happen to her friends with her 21st century experience.
The goldfields were a very volatile place with corruption and violence rife, and with tensions rising, it was only a matter of time before there would be trouble. Sam knows what tragedy is coming, and she hopes to keep those that she loves from being caught up. With the principles of freedom and justice at stake though, it is difficult and Sam finds herself at the encampment as the time approaches for the confrontation between the miners and the authorities.
The Eureka Stockade is one of the iconic events of Australian history. Whilst the actual stockade wasn't a success, the events that occurred there were the catalyst for change that helped build the foundations of Australian society particularly in terms of the right for non land owners to vote (just the men at this point). It was also where the Eureka flag was used for the first time as a banner to rally around. Even today, the Eureka flag is used by some of the trade unions as a symbol.
Whilst Sam brings us a bird's eye view of the events that lead up to the Eureka Stockade, she is also learning valuable life lessons like being able to ask for help when you need it, and about learning to love, and to accept love from others, but not without having to deal with sorrow along the way.
I definitely intend to read more from Jackie French. I am starting with a series about animals being present at major events in history. The first book in that series, The Goat Who Travelled the World is on my TBR pile to get to soon, and is about a goat that travels with the First Fleet to Australia (or New South Wales as it was known then).
Not only does this book qualify as my read for this letter in the Alphabet in Historical Fiction, it also qualifies as one of my reads for the Aussie Author Challenge, the Year of the Historical Challenge, and the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.