The December Boys
Author: Michael Noonan
This title is in the news big-time at the moment – made into a feature movie, it stars Daniel Radcliffe in his first non-Harry-Potter screen performance. Such an amazing choice of roles for him – this adaptation of an old Aussie novel!
The book itself was first published way back in 1963, and was Commended for the Miles Franklin Award. It’s a deeply moving story, tinged with humour and adventure, about four young orphans who have grown up in a Catholic orphanage. The boys are coming to realise that the possibility of them being chosen for adoption is starting to pass them by. They get to spend Christmas at the seaside, a treat that can’t even be diminished by their home-made, flour-sack converted, swimming costumes. At the beach they meet up with a childless couple who are planning to adopt, and the four boy’s bond of friendship is tested by their competition to be the one chosen.
This is a lovely snapshot of this time in Australian history – so many little details giving such an interesting feel to the story. The humour certainly helps to balance out the incredibly sad feeling I had for these orphan boys, so innocent of the poverty of their lives and experiences, and so full of hope and optimism for their futures. At times I found the language and style of the author quite dated, but in context this is not a major concern.
Well worth the read – a coming of age story, exploring themes of friendship, rivalry and belonging.