Review: Laurinda by Alice Pung

 

Title: Laurinda

Author: Alice Pung

Published: Black Inc Books November 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from November 15 to 17, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Alice Pung has received critical acclaim for her memoirs, Unpolished Gem and Her Father’s Daughter which explore her experience as an Asian-Australian.

Laurinda is Alice Pung’s first fiction novel and features a teenage girl, Lucy Lam, who is awarded the inaugural ‘Equal Access’ scholarship to the exclusive Laurinda Ladies College.

Lucy is the daughter of Chinese/Vietnamese ‘boat’ immigrants who live in a ‘povvo’ area of suburban Australia. Her father is a shift worker in a carpet factory while her mother, who speaks almost no English, sews in their garage under sweatshop conditions while caring for Lucy’s baby brother. As an Asian-Australian scholarship student without a background of wealth and privilege, Lucy is an outsider at Laurinda in more ways than one, but wants to fit in and take advantage of the opportunities the school affords her.

Initially Lucy feels confident she will be able to hold her own at Laurinda but she soon realises that there is a cultural and social divide she is at a loss as to how best negotiate. In particular, Lucy is both fascinated with and horrified by the dynamics at the school which contrast sharply with her experience at Christ Our Saviour College. Laurinda is in thrall to three young women known as the Cabinet who wield a frightening amount of influence within the school with the tacit approval of the headmistress, Mrs Grey. Amber, Chelsea and Brodie are manipulative and cruel yet have cultivated an aura of power that none of their peers, and few of their teachers, are willing to challenge. As Lucy is absorbed into the school’s insular environment she is caught up in the ethos of Laurinda, and nearly loses herself, but eventually finds a way to forge her own path.

The narrative is presented in the form of a series of letters addressed to ‘Linh’ whom we assume is a friend of Lucy’s from her previous school. The author’s portrayal of Lucy is compassionate, sensitive and achingly real. Lucy is smart, capable and strong, but she is also a teenager and as such is beset by bouts of insecurity and vulnerability. Though I do not share the same ethnicity nor background as Lucy, I found her, and several of her experiences, easy to relate to.

Part satire, magnifying the pretensions of private school and the aspirations of immigrant families, part poignant coming of age tale, Pung draws on her own experiences which gives the story a sense of authenticity. Privilege, racism, class, identity and integrity are all themes explores in the novel. Pung also skilfully captures the almost universal experience for teenage girls negotiating high school where a small number of students often have an inexplicable cache of power and wield it without mercy. While Lucy is not the only victim of the Cabinet’s bullying, she also has to negotiate the additional stress of cultural discord and the expectations of Laurinda’s principal who demands Lucy is suitably grateful for, and repays, the privilege she has been given.

The writing is sharp and witty with characters and scenes that are vividly portrayed. The pace is good and the structure works well to deliver an interesting surprise. Laurinda is a clever, entertaining and insightful novel, suitable for both a young adult and adult audience and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to either.

 

Available to purchase from

Black Inc Books Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

*****

awwbadge_2014

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Patty
    Nov 19, 2014 @ 02:00:30

    I sometimes love reading books written this way!

    Like

    Reply

  2. Danielle
    Nov 19, 2014 @ 08:51:22

    How great was it, seriously!!!

    Like

    Reply

  3. stacybuckeye
    Nov 22, 2014 @ 12:22:33

    Bet I know a girl who would love this.

    Like

    Reply

I want to know what you think! Your comments are appreciated.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s