Fleur Beale’s historical novel A Respectable Girl made the Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction list
Hannah, of Pakeha background, but with a Maori step-mother and half-brother, has grown up in New Plymouth which by 1859 becomes very the battlefield between settlers and Maori.
Partly because they are torn between the two cultures, partly to find out secrets about their dead mother’s past, Hannah and her twin brother flee the colony and board a ship to England.
This is when novel develops some aspects of the 19th century English melodrama: class distinction, missing heirs, a dastardly rogue threatening a maiden’s virtue, the importance of respectability for a young woman, the need to make a good marriage.
However, the protagonist is far too feisty and clever to play the part of a swooning heroine and confronts class prejudice, sexism, dishonour and poverty with courage. She appears a decidedly modern, somewhat anachronistic character whereas her brother plays second fiddle throughout.
Full of action, danger and adventures this is an enjoyable read.
Reviewed by Anneke a Campo.
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