Clara in Washington

Penny Tangey

Clara in Washington
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Clara in Washington

Penny Tangey

Clara is in Washington. Washington D.C. is meant to be all glamour, politics and great conversations but what do you do when you don’t have the words to join in? Or the knowledge to ride the subway? Or you’re scared someone will mug you? Joining her mother on a trip to Washington is Clara’s end-of-school adventure and a chance to be someone else other than the studious geek she’s always been. Although, starting an adventure is hard to do when you won’t leave the house. But Clara didn’t count on meeting Campbell and his anarchist group and she didn’t count on her new discoveries threatening to unravel all her plans. Will she still be the same after Washington?


One of the many things to like about this novel is the main character, Clara. She is such a likeable, intelligent young woman, poised between Year 12 and university. The way she is focused on the things that both limit and entertain her is somehow so familiar. The easy seduction of the television set, the comfort of Melbourne friends and culture, the need for endless texting and the unreasoned fear of ‘different’ – different country, different culture, different skin colour.

But forced to rely on her own resources (alone in Washington while her mother works long hours), she finds the courage to venture out into the big, bad streets – to catch the train, volunteer, and armed with her Lonely Planet guide book, to ‘do’ Washington. Duffle-coated Campbell from the Anarchists’ Collective becomes an interesting distraction and an unexpected facilitator in her working out the things that matter to her. A novel which manages to be both breezy and thought-provoking, for ages 14 and up.

Kathy Kozlowski is from Readings Carlton

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