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McCormick, Patricia: Never Fall Down.

McCORMICK, Patricia Never Fall Down. A Novel Corgi, 2013 220pp NZ$18.99 pbk ISBN 9780552567350 SCIS 1597715


There are some books that are for children and other books about childhood. Sometimes there is a tension between these stances in terms of the implied reader. This powerful and heart-wrenching account of child soldiers in the killing fields of Cambodia, based on oral stories and research of actual events, evokes this tension. The book itself speaks of 'graphic scenes of a distressing nature and is not suitable for younger readers.' Yet, as Desmond Tutu states on the front cover,' [This is] one of the most inspiring and powerful books I've ever read.'

Through the power of narrative, we experience one of the worst genocides ever inflicted by a country on its own people, captured through the eyes and voice of Arn Chorn-Pond, an eleven year old boy, who both resists and succumbs to the horrific choices forced upon children. What truly does it mean to survive?

From the beginning to the end, veracity is the name of the game. What is remarkable when you read the first chapter is the voice of the child: the broken English, the awareness of adult/sibling duplicity, the eye for detail at the local level rather than an awareness of the bigger picture.

At the end is found the Acknowledgments whereby Am, a real person, reiterates the core of his story and his relationship to the narrator/ biographer. This 'novel' then is faction: the retelling of a true story through the art of a personalised narrative. It certainly invites a discussion in a classroom as to the nature of the novel. This is a stunning recount that older secondary school students would find provocative. It invites critical reflection of contemporary reality. Highly recommended.

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Author:McKenzie, John
Publication:Reading Time
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 1, 2013
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