It’s still a deliciously warm and wonderful read.
Over 30 years ago, Playing Beatie Bow fell into my hands (probably through my school or local library), and I was enthralled. Last weekend, I picked it up again and my heart still pounded at the same points and I had to blink away tears before my family spied me crying over this gorgeous little book.
Playing Beatie Bow was first published in 1980 and I remember being of similar age to Abigail, the fourteen-year old protagonist when I first read the story. The story is set in Sydney in the 1980s. Abigail’s family has broken down with the separation of her parents. I remember all too well the stigma and shame from having divorced parents at that age during the 1980s. Abigail is lost, heartbroken and just a little harder. She follows a strange young girl up into The Rocks (a historic area close to Sydney Harbour) and slips back a century to 1873. She finds herself recognised as The Stranger who has been prophesied to save The Gift for the Talisker and Bow families.
Park deftly weaves the past with the present and gives readers a wonderful glimpse into The Rocks of the 1870s. I adored the storyline and subplots, and even after all this time, I still found myself connecting with Abigail who was at times immature, selfish and annoying (exactly how fourteen-year olds can often be).
I admit this book has aged along with the depiction of 1980s family life, but for me it was a true and real representation of what life was like and although, I didn’t experience time travel (not for want of trying), I did experience family breakdown and it did scar me as it did Abigail.
I enjoyed the vividness of Park’s Sydney and adored the romantic thread throughout the story. Park’s themes of relationship, friendship and family are just as relevant today as they were back in the 1980s.
I found Playing Beatie Bow to be a deliciously wonderful and warm read, and I sincerely hope YA readers will enjoy this foray into the past (the 1980s and 1870s!).
A note about Playing Beatie Bow (Penguin Books):
It was awarded a number of prestigious literary awards including the 1981 CBCA Book of the Year Award. In 1986, the book was turned into a feature film and I think it’s about time I search for a copy of the video. Playing Beatie Bow is still in print today and you can buy it from Penguin Books.