Monday, March 28, 2016

O.o.O.C.: "Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence" by Doris Pilkington ~ Nugi Garimara

Out of Orbit Critiques are the reviews on books that stray outside my usual genres. Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence is a nonfiction account of three girls of Aboriginal and Caucasian heritage traveling back to their families across Australia.

This book is told in a style that isn't quite a memoir and not quite nonfiction. The result is a slightly unevenly paced novel, which is actually quite a short read at 136 pages (or so Goodreads professes). I had seen some of the movie version of this, so my opinion may not reflect what some first time indulgers in this story might feel about reading it. Just something to keep in mind.

That disclosed, I have to admit the true story behind both the book and the film is absolutely incredible (and horrifying to those of us who want the best for children). Molly and her cousins Daisy and Gracie are taken from their home to a "school" (that resembles either an institution or a prison) to learn a trade (a trade they likely could've learned better from their parents). If you aren't just a little bit mad to learn this is a true story, well, you have more Vulcan-like emotional restraint than I do.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'This extraordinary story of courage and faith is based on the actual experiences of three girls who fled from the repressive life of Moore River Native Settlement, following along the rabbit-proof fence back to their homelands. Assimilationist policy dictated that these girls be taken from their kin and their homes in order to be made white. Settlement life was unbearable with its chains and padlocks, barred windows, hard cold beds, and horrible food. Solitary confinement was doled out as regular punishment. The girls were not even allowed to speak their language. Of all the journeys made since white people set foot on Australian soil, the journey made by these girls born of Aboriginal mothers and white fathers speaks something to everyone.'

A problem I had with the novel was in part due to my own negligence- the author uses many Aboriginal words and phrases, often not mentioning what they mean. However, there is a glossary in the back, that, had I known it was there, I would have used much more often. Google does not seem to know any of the Aboriginal words in this book.

Since I already knew the trajectory of this book, some of the revelations were anti-climactic to me, and because the writing was on the nonfiction side of things (keeping to the facts and not inserting many flowery phrases) I was a little underwhelmed with some of the book. Luckily, there were things I hadn't recalled happening to surprise me, as well as descriptions of scenery I can scarcely imagine. This is one of my Travel the World in Books picks that really showed me places I have never been before- all through the imagery of the written word.

A glimpse of the writing style:
Patrol officers travelled far and wide removing part-Aboriginal children from their families and transported them hundreds of kilometres down south. Every mother of a part-Aboriginal child was aware that their offspring could be taken away from them at any time and they were powerless to stop the abductors.
       ~Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington ~ Nugi Garimara, about 29% Kindle edition

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence is an epic story of the power and perseverance of girls. Having been the same age as these girls were when they made the trek, I have to admit I feel in awe of their ability to keep going, despite their goal seeming insurmountable. Beyond girl power, this story also educates on the history of the Aboriginal people: I had no idea that many of the things mentioned briefly in the beginning of this book even occurred- and I watched some of the movie version(!). So if you want to learn about the Aboriginal culture and the history of early Colonial Australia, but also want a story of three young (and very determined) girls, there is no other book I'd recommend except this one.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a great (and short) eye-opener into a darker time in the history of Australia.

Content: Ages 14+ for racial injustices (including violence and death), hunting and gathering, and survival.

Page Count: 136 pages


  1. I have been meaning to read this book for forever. Thanks for the review and making it pop back into my mind. :)

    1. This book is great, but I must say the movie also helped bring it to life for me. Sometimes imagining the scenery from the description just isn't as easy as seeing it for yourself.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, La La!
      ~Litha Nelle


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