Once the shock of finding themselves in a totally stranger environment wears off, Didi and her sister’s boyfriend Jamie, decide to make the best of their unusual circumstances. They don’t even like each other and now they must live together. Against a backdrop of post-Depression Melbourne, the coming of refugees from Northern Europe, and the October season of Wirth’s Circus, their relationship gradually matures. But eventually the terrible implications of their plight sinks in and they realise that they must find a way home. Or stay in this decade forever.
This exciting, fast moving story highlights the difference between today’s comparative freedom of language, behaviour and dress, and the more conservative attitudes of the 1930’s. Melbourne during the Depression is vividly portrayed, with an overlying theme of time transcended by the human qualities of love and friendship. This is compelling reading.
Cover design and illustration by Gregory Rogers.
Short listed by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
A 1991 CBCA Notable Book.
Named as one the 150 Young Adult Victoria State Library’s treasures.
WHAT INSPIRED THIS STORY:
This novel, the first I wrote under my own name, was based on the experiences of my parents when they migrated to Melbourne Australia, in the early 1930’s. However, in order to bring those Depression years alive, I used the idea of ‘time-warp’ to give a present day perspective for young readers.
This book unfortunately is now out of print as Margaret Hamilton Books no longer exists. C For anyone interested, copies can still be found in libraries and second-hand bookshops. It was the first of a number of historical fictions set in Australia that I wrote in later years.
Here is a bit more of the story:
“Didi (actually named Eurydice) is miserable and unsettled because her father’s work has forced her to leave her friends and school in Sydney. Jamie, older sister Kate’s boyfriend, is also unsettled because of his parents’ divorce and his recent move to Melbourne. Kate resents Jamie’s absorption in music and his need to earn money.
While Didi and Jamie happen to be watching an old film, ‘On our Selection’ they are inexplicably transported back to 1933. Though initially terrified, Jamie and Didi are quickly befriended by the lively argumentative Sam and his fiancee Selma and taken into the Finkelsteins’ welcoming boarding house.
Once the shock of finding themselves in a totally strange environment wears off, Didi and Jamie decide to make the most of their unusual circumstances. They don’t even like each other, and now they must learn to live together. Against a backdrop of Depression Melbourne, early European migration and the excitement of Wirth’s Circus on the site of the present Victorian Arts Centre, they must find a way home or stay in 1933 forever.
EXTRACTS FROM SOME REVIEWS:
RIPPA READS: “Goldie Alexander paints a fascinating picture of the two characters Selma and Sam, their circus friends, the family with whom they stay and all the other characters and of life in Melbourne in the Depression..’
READING TIME: “Many issues are raised and a number are discussed in the Finkelstein household. The themes of integrity, steadfastness in the face of difficulty and sibling rivalry underpin the plot.”
TEMPO BOOKS: “Some will enjoy this novel simply for the adventure story it is. Others will choose to study it further, to ponder the differences between attitude, language and the moral and social issues of the 30’s…”
HOME SCHOOL BOOKS: “While Didi and Jamie happen to be watching an old film, ‘On Our Selection’ they are inexplicably transported back to 1933. Though initially terrified, Jamie and Didi are quickly befriended by the lively argumentative Sam and his fiancee Selma and taken into the Finkelsteins’ welcoming boarding house. Once the shock of finding themselves in a totally strange environment wears off, Didi and Jamie decide to make the most of their unusual circumstances. Against a backdrop of Depression Melbourne, early European migration and the excitement of Wirth’s Circus on the site of the present Victorian Arts Centre, they must find a way home or stay in 1933 forever.”
My particular interest in writing history lies in bringing the past to life and comparing it with the present. In my first historical novel for Young Adults, I wanted to create a historical fiction that would allow youngsters to see the past with contemporary eyes. “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”
Using this time-travel technique allows the reader to perceive events through modern eyes. Nothing is easier to lose than the past. Even when I look back on my own growing up years, they seem quite remote, the Australia of the fifties so different as to be almost unrecognizable.
It is a truism that most writers write about themselves in their earlier novels. My father arrived from Poland in late 20’s ‘Just in time for the Depression.’ I wanted to show succeeding generations what life was like then. My windfall was finding so much material on Wirth’s Circus. This circus used to set up a giant tent every Christmas on the site which is now the Victorian Arts Centre. One of my earliest memories is the smell of sawdust, the uncomfortable wooden seats, and the wonderful performances of both people and animals.
Living history fiction. Taken from an article by Kim Wilson.
“Readers are persuasively invited to assume that the modern characters’ perception of the past is authentic because it has been formed by a lived experience of history. In Living history novels, readers are positioned to perceive both the strengths and weaknesses of past and present times, ultimately reconciling the two in a present that faces chronologically forwards. The Living history novel creates a confluence of past and present, be it physically or psychically. The Living history novel is distinctive in its intense character introversion, quest journey and self-discovery. The most important outcome of the living history experience is that characters learn something significant about themselves. Because the story is about the modern character’s quest and self realisation, the past is consistently perceived from their point of view. Modern characters are transported in time and readers are only rarely invited to see the past from a past point of view.”