A couple of years ago, I read and really enjoyed a book called Barbed Wire and Roses by Australian author Peter Yeldham. Since then, I have been meaning to read more of his books, but despite the fact that I had borrowed one a couple of times, I never actually managed to read it. This book, A Distant Shore, is his latest book, and once again I find myself wondering why I haven't read more. It is a problem I intend to address.
Here's the blurb:
The moving story of a young girl's journey from Greece to Australia, and the life she builds – and love she finds – in a sometimes unwelcoming land
Katerina arrives in Sydney by ship as a six-year-old in the 1950s, a bewildered newcomer met by her father, whom she barely remembers, and abandoned by her impulsive and flighty mother. She faces a strange and often hostile new country as she and her father struggle to be accepted.
Growing into a beautiful and intelligent young woman, Katerina renames herself Kate and makes the Northern Beaches of Sydney home. At the age of seventeen, while the Vietnam War rages and protest marches fill Australian streets, she is swept into a passionate love affair.
Life for Kate brings joy and tragedy. Inspired by her own experience as a child, she becomes a legal advocate for displaced persons and is forced to confront questions of life and death, freedom and captivity – choices that will change her life forever . . .
A Distant Shore is a poignant and stirring story of our times about courage, justice and enduring love.
Yeldham has chosen to look at the Australian immigrant experience from the 1950's through to the early 2000s, also touching base on some of the other major issues that faced Australia during this period like the public protests against our involvement in Vietnam. Our main character, Kate, is a young girl when she comes to Australia from Cyprus in the 1950s. Abandoned by her mother, she comes to live with her dour father in one of what was then one of the less glamourous parts of Sydney. She faces ostracism during her school days, subject to racist taunts and vilification throughout her childhood years and into her teens.
Through a series of events, Kate finds herself involved as an advocate for immigrants, many of whom have come to Australia through illegal ports of entry and therefore find themselves in detention centres for many years, and specifically involved with advocacy for the women and children who find themselves in that situation.
From this blurb, there is little to indicate that one of the main subjects in this book is about the political and society reaction to the illegal boat people who attempt to gain access to Australia, and to be honest, that doesn't surprise me. The subject of illegal immigration is a very emotive one still, but it was especially so in the early years of the 2000s. Australian's pride themselves on being a multi cultural society and very welcoming, and yet, you don't have to dig too far to find people who are vehemently opposed to many of the refugees who try to find their way here, no matter how desperate the situation they are fleeing from, or how dangerous the journey is for them and their families. Even in my small office environment, there are very different views in relation to this issue and we work in an organisation with a strong focus on social welfare.
When I was reading the very early parts of this novel, I did wonder how many readers would realise the subject and the author's views on the issue and not be able to read more. Which lead me to wonder about my question for today. If you start to read a book where the topic is quite political in nature, does it put you off, especially if you disagree with the author's views? Can you keep reading if the writing is good enough, and would this kind of issue affect how you grade a book?