Scatterheart by Lili Wilkinson
Hannah Cheshire is a young lady of Quality living in London, and the daughter of a Gentleman. Arthur Cheshire is an important businessman, and wants only the best for his daughter. Hannah is used to having the best, fine dresses and jewellery, food and servants. Hannah has grown up with no mother and, apart from her father, has no one else in her life besides her tutor.
Thomas Behr has filled Hannah's head with history, poetry, and mathematics as well as languages, animals and stories; much to Arthur Cheshire's dismay. It was not necessary nor desirable for a young lady of Quality to know such things, Hannah's father would say. But still Thomas Behr loved to tell his story and Hannah loved to hear them. Her favourite story was that of Scatterheart.
One day Hannah finds her life turned upside down, and all her troubles seem to start with the dismissal of Thomas Behr as her tutor. Quickly afterwards things seem to turn from bad to worse, and Hannah finds herself imprisoned. "A series of misfortunes and calamities...", as Hannah puts it, has brought her to trial and despite her insistence of innocence; she is sentenced to "Parts Beyond the Seas", other wise known as New South Wales.
It is upon the seas and beyond that Hannah holds dear to her the stories told by Thomas Behr; she is haunted by the story of Scatterheart and the white bear. Along with the stories is the memory of the man she has become so fond of. Once she had considered him well beneath her, a servant, a commoner. Now she thinks of him more and more. But will she ever see him again?
Scatterheart is a fickle and selfish girl who accepts the offer of marriage from a white bear, not because she loves him but because he can offer her a castle to live in and beautiful dresses to wear. Hannah begins to wonders if she is not so different, willing to consider marriage to a man she detests for the chance to have a grand house with carriages, and fifty servants, and jewels and beautiful dresses.
Like Scatterheart, Hannah must endure a long and dangerous journey, to discover what is truly worth having, finding growth and learning and love; all the while searching for her own Mr Bear, 'East O' The Sun, West O' The Moon'.
Scatterheart is a wonderful story that mixes reality with fantasy, and truth with illusion. It's a story that portrays the ignorance and selfishness of the wealthy and the harsh reality of life for the poor living in London and Australia in 1814. Scatterheart is a fairytale that's actual and realistic.
Price (AU): $19.99
Recommended age: 13+
In a word: Journey
Re-read it: probably
Star rating: four out of five