Two Sparrowhawks In A Lonely Sky


This Young
Adult book ticks all the boxes for a family reunion story crossed with epic
adventure, all wrapped up in a generous serving of historical fiction.


Author Rebecca Lim has fictionalised historical events in China, namely 1958 –
1960’s Great Leap Forward campaign, to create a novel that is both
clever and engaging. 

Economic disaster, widespread famine and millions of
deaths don’t immediately scream ‘this will be a fabulous book’ but in Lim’s
capable hands, they become one. 

Non-gratuitous
bloodshed and violence co-exist with the kind deeds of strangers, which are
intentionally smattered throughout the narrative. 

In her notes, the author
reveals that she deliberately sought to include small, unsung acts of bravery
to highlight the impact that every individual human being can have on the world
around them.

We meet 13-year-old Fu and his 11-year-old sister Pei in the fields of rural
China during famine times, where they and their mother work their fingers to
the bone to ward off starvation. And yet, with further political upheaval and
communism closing in, their hard lives are about to become exponentially
harder.

When their
mother dies of starvation, the village chief decrees that young Pei will be
married off, and her older brother sold into a life of hard field labour. To
avoid this fate, the two must hurriedly undertake a long and perilous journey
to the other side of the world. Armed with only a photograph, an old menu in a
language that they do not understand and their mother’s deathbed wish that they
not be separated, they set off. 

Told in
three parts, we follow Fu and Pei as they escape rural village life and certain
doom, thanks to a series of strangers who reach out to the youngsters and keep
them on course. Their refugee journey takes them over land and sea, via Hong
Kong, to a large and difficult country to enter, where their father is living.
Will the border force in Australia acknowledge the children and their
situation, allowing them to be reunited as a family?

Strong
attention to detail is a hallmark of this book. From helpful illustrations to assist
the reader place characters, to passages describing ludicrous government
directives (clanging precious pots and pans together, to ward off field pests
such as rats and mosquitoes), to the crowded and challenging life on-board a
ship bound for new beginnings, to treasures secretly sewn into the fabric of
their clothes – an incredible amount of research has been invested and imbued
into the narrative.

This story
delves deeply into what it is to be the ‘other’ and raises many questions for
exploration – some that are answered through its pages and others that linger
for a long time afterwards.

Title: Two Sparrowhawks In A Lonely Sky
Author: Rebecca Lim
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $17.99
Publication Date: 29 August 2023
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781761180224
For ages: 11 – 14
Type: Historical Fiction Young Adult Fiction



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