Review : Elsewhere Girls

This clever and highly entertaining novel is written by two authors, writing one voice each.

It is early 2021. Cat and her family have moved from country Victoria to the city. Cat has won a sports scholarship into Victoria College. But swimming is not her passion but she is good at it. 

The expectations that come with the scholarship are overwhelming for Cat, and she’d rather be back in Orange. But she can’t let her parents down. 

Her life is ruled by early morning training and a stop watch.

Fan longs to be a top swimmer. Her goal is the Olympics. It is 1908. She and her nine siblings work extremely hard with training fitting in around the endless chores that every day demands.

On an ordinary day, when both girls are swimming, the hands of the stopwatch measuring time for Cat, turn anti-clockwise at the same moment that Fan is being timed.

A time-slip occurs. The girls find themselves in the other’s world. Fan is in Cat’s body and looks like her but is still Fan, and vice-versa.

How it happens is a mystery to both girls who must work out how to get back home.

Meanwhile, wonderful descriptions of life and family in the early 1900s, become film tapes, projecting the past that Cat is forced to adapt to. Hilarious situations occur when both girls try to cover their mistakes in speech, attitude, dress and relationships within the family circle.

It is almost impossible for Cat to behave like she belongs in Fan’s era. She must dispose of dead rats, and use a chamber pot in the night. This she forgoes for the dunny with newspapers hanging on a string for toilet paper. Washing day is worse and she fears she will never survive the challenges each day brings.

The toaster is a mystery to Fan. How does it go up and down? There is the shower that produces hot water at the turn of a tap. A machine washes the clothes instead of boiling a copper and using the wash board. Mobile phones and Google are mysterious words, and how do laptops die?

Valuable historical information is used to create Fan’s life which can’t fail to be highly educational for younger people who have grown up in the internet age.

I loved everything about this lighthearted story built of swapped lives. The past’s difficulties put the present’s luxuries in focus, reminding us how lucky we are to live in the times that we do. At the same time, acknowledging that those early years had a lot of beneficial things that today’ society lacks.

Title: Elsewhere Girls
Author: Emily Gale & Nova Weetman
Publisher: Text, $16.99
Publication Date: 4 May 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781922330451
For ages: 10+
Middle Grade Fiction

July 12, 2021 at 12:35AM Anastasia Gonis