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Book Review: Cassandra by Kathryn Gossow

Catching up on my reading and reviewing, I'm currently reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin, but I recently read Cassandra by Kathryn Gossow, and finally have a review.

Cassandra by Kathryn Gossow is published by Odyssey Books.

The magic of childhood imagination comes to life in this story by Kathryn Gossow. Cassandra is a young girl learning about life, truth, and acceptance as she grows up on her family’s insular farm. Cassandra can also predict the future. Not a bad talent to have though visions are often hazy, open to interpretation, and as we find out, shaped by family secrets. Her younger brother, however, can predict the weather and on a Queensland farm where survival is determined by rainfall or lack thereof, Cassandra’s talent is sidelined.

From the dry dusty landscape around the farmhouse to the snakes in the garden, and the grandparents gently guiding the younger generation, Kathryn Gossow has created a story that will relate to readers through a reminiscence of growing up. Who hasn’t been misunderstood or ignored in favour of a shining sibling, or at least felt that way as a child. The worldview and understanding of a child is narrow and confined to the family unit. It’s no wonder then that Cassandra’s visions of the future are hard for her to put into words.

As she grows, her world expands to include a new neighbour, a girl of similar age and her father. The pair become friends and explore Cassandra’s talent of foretelling in a way that is a help and a hindrance. Visions are expanded upon though meaning is still obscured and with the opening of her mind to accept the visions, she finds that they are less easy to manage, impact on her day-to-day life, and expose her and her family to secrets ripped bare, and an uneasy future.

Kathryn’s descriptions of landscape are spot on and easily transport the reader to the Queensland outback. Her character development is interesting and will carry you from Cassandra’s young childhood to oncoming adulthood. Story will twist and turn, be hazy like Cassandra’s visions, and come clear with sometimes tragic results.

The storytelling here is masterful, woven as it is with the honest, if sometimes faulty, insights of a young child and the feelings of helplessness a young child feels in a world where she has no control or power, and limited understanding of the adult goings-on around her. At the same time, those innocent insights can cut to the bone with their accuracy. Cassandra’s interaction with her visions, the snake, and the Sisters who weave the tapestry of her family’s fate are handled with finesse as is the dive into mental illness and the reactions/fear Cassandra’s visions and behaviour causes the people closest to her.

I could go on and on, but instead, I’ll recommend that you go buy this novel and read it yourself.

Next on the review list is Matt Haig's How to Stop Time.

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