The opening lines of Seven Little Australians had me hooked. In 1994, Ethel Turner's children's classic was the only book by an Australian author to have been continuously in print for 100 years! That's an enormous feat to boast. And for a kid's book too!
Having heard past students grumble "too old" over this book, I wasn't pumped to read it for uni. Yet in the first lines, I found something homey and familiar I did not expect.
What do you think?
Before you fairly start this story I should like to give you just a word of warning. If you imagine you are going to read of model children, with perhaps a naughtily inclined one to point a moral, you had better lay down the book immediately and betake yourself to Sandford and Merton, or similar juvenile works. Not one of the seven is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are.
Ethel Turner. 1894. Seven Little Australians. Ward, Lock & Co., Limited.
Remind you of anything? Let me throw around a couple of names... E. Nesbit? Lemony Snicket?
This sort of writing is so familiar and comfy to me. The first person narrator, addressing the reader in that sweet, motherly way is so full of warmth. This style of storytelling, while boring or unfamiliar to some, gives me the same feelings of safety and ease as it did when I first read E. Nesbit as a child.
And that "word of warning"... Despite being 120 years old, this is so reminiscent of A Series of Unfortunate Events novel. It feels way too current for a book written two centuries back.
It's amazing these storytelling styles are evident so far back in time, and are yet so fresh and friendly now too.