The Wearing of the Green by Claire Saxby
The Wearing of the Green is the latest from award-winning local author Claire Saxby. Inspired by her own ancestry, Saxby explores the lives of young Irish girls who migrated to Australia in the 1850s to be servants or workers for the growing middle class.
The book follows Biddy, who has already survived many a trouble back in Ireland. When she arrives at Williamstown’s dock, she expects to step off the boat and into the arms of her older brother Ewen, but Ewen isn’t there. Quicker than Biddy can blink, she is carted off by Mr Morrison to work on his ramshackle farm in the unfamiliar and terrifying Australian countryside.
Through Biddy’s eyes we discover this new land, both the good and the bad, as she interacts with the local First Nations people, as she laughs and cries with her two-year-old ward, Annie, and as she makes her daring escape back to Melbourne to find her brother. Ewen doesn’t know it yet, but Biddy is all the family he has left, and she is determined to find him.
Paralleling Biddy’s story is that of colonial Victoria, its growing pains and its community of people from all over the world, trying to find their place. Unfortunately, we also witness the age-old struggles of racism, sexism and classism at work, something that Australia is still struggling with even now. This is a great book for schools, libraries and anyone with an interest in our history. For ages 10+.