Review Blog

Mar 22 2018

The day they shot Edward by Wendy Scarfe

cover image

Wakefield, 2018. ISBN 9781743055199
(Age: 16+) In a modest household in 1916 Australia, a family struggles to cope with life's challenges.
Nine year old Matthew occupies an uncomfortable position surrounded by adults whose mysterious behaviour is seldom explained adequately to him. His father (terrifying to the lad) lies dying of tuberculosis, quarantined in a room sealed from the house, tended by Matthew's mother and grandmother. Gran appears to be more of a mother figure to Matthew, showing him love and doing the best she can to guide him through difficult times as his mother seems unable to cope with her disastrous marriage and financial hardship.
Charismatic Edward, a dockyard union organiser who is subversively active in protesting against First World War conscription is a frequent visitor to the house. Here he enjoys the company of Mathew's beautiful mother, shares political ideology with Gran and develops a genuinely affectionate, almost paternal relationship with Matthew.
Matthew is shown to be deeply sensitive, acutely aware of the pain and suffering of others and is bewildered by the attitudes and actions of adults who move in his sphere. Strong, handsome and intelligent Edward is afraid of nobody and Matthew understandably idolises him, given that the kind man brings a sense of stability and security to his life.
As powerful as Edward is, in terms of his personal physique and as a leader of hardened working men in the union, he is naive in failing to understand the reach of the undercover police and government agents who investigate him. At a time when the Australian army was mustering troops to support mother England, openly criticising the commitment and engaging in strike action invited being considered a traitorous anarchist by the establishment.
Luckily for Matthew, he finds friendship with Mr. Werther, his aged German Headmaster. Together they share the world of music, celebrating all that is gentle.
Rob Welsh

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