Review of ‘Refuge’

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Written by Jackie French

Publisher: Harper Collins

Teaching Notes:  Written by Robyn Sheahan Bright (amazing BTW)

Age Range: 11 – 111

Themes: refuges; asylum seekers; boat people; nations; fantasy; realism; historical; survival; hope; perseverance, community.

 ‘He hadn’t understood, on the sagging boat on its way here, how much Australia didn’t want him. But he had nowhere else to go.’ (Refuge, p.203)


Forget the media. If you want the young people in your life to gain an insight into the plight of refugees…gift them this remarkable book. It is very possibly my favourite book for the 11+ age group this year and is utterly suitable for both male and female readers.

‘We are different, but people who are different can be friends. What makes someone say: ‘Your difference is evil. We will wipe you out forever?’ (Refuge)

To add this book to your home, school or library collection click here.

Synopsis: When a boat carrying a group of asylum seekers is sunk by a freak wave, Faris wakes from the shipwreck in an Australia he’s always dreamed of. There are kangaroos grazing under orange trees and the sky is always blue. On a nearby beach, Faris meets a group of young people who have come from far different times and places. They are also seeking refuge, and each has their own story of why they had to leave their country to make a new life for themselves. It is only when Faris chooses to return to ‘real life’ and find his father in Australia that he learns the extraordinary truth about the friends he made in the golden beach.

‘Death is easy for people like us, the easiest thing in our whole lives. But to survive — that’s harder. I think that’s why we’re here. To find the strength, the courage to survive.’ (Refuge, pp.73-4)

Though the subject matter is heavy, this book is utterly accessible and terribly poignant. This is a powerful novel and an unusual mix of realism and fantasy, which works ridiculously well due only to the skill of Jackie French. With ‘Refuge’ the reader is in the care of Australia’s most skilled storyteller.

As with all her historical novels, Jackie French has completed extensive research, which is outlined in the excellent authors notes at the conclusion of the novel.

I do highly recommend the teacher’s notes by Robyn Sheahan-Bright here for studies in the classroom.

More about Jackie French (and my visit to her garden!) here.

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