The Silent Kookaburra (Aussie-based Psychological Suspense)



All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall wants is a happy family. But Mum does nothing besides housework, Dad’s always down the pub and Nanna Purvis moans at everyone except her dog. Then Shelley arrives –– the miracle baby who fuses the Randall family in love for their little gumnut blossom.

Tanya’s life gets even better when she meets an uncle she didn’t know she had. He tells her she’s beautiful and could be a model. Her family refuses to talk about him. But that’s okay, it’s their little secret.

Then one blistering summer day tragedy strikes, and the surrounding mystery and suspicion tear apart this fragile family web.

Embracing the social changes of 1970s Australia, against a backdrop of native fauna and flora, The Silent Kookaburra is a haunting exploration of the blessings, curses and tyranny of memory.

Unsettling psychological suspense blending the intensity of Wally Lamb with the atmosphere of Peter James, this story will get under your skin.

 Where to buy The Silent Kookaburra:


Review Quotes:
Compelling psychological drama that delves into the dark heart of family secrets. Chris Curran, author of Amazon bestseller, Mindsight.

A tight and tense family drama which engages the reader’s attention from start to finish, and which bears all the hallmarks of this talented author’s fine attention to detail and natural story telling ability. Jaffareadstoo, book blogger.

A real page-turner with fabulously engaging characters and a gripping plot, the outcome of which I did not guess before the final revelation. Claire Whatley, reader.

An amazing domestic thriller with a gripping storyline, vivid dialogue, a palpable sense of place and time, and a compelling cast of characters that I can't get out of my head. Carol Cooper, Contemporary Women’s Fiction author.

I have to say this was one of the most compelling reads I have read. Carol Ravensdale, reader.

Liza Perrat brings her sureness of touch, vivid characterisation and ability to convey a strong sense of time and place to this story set in 1970s Australia. Vanessa Couchman, author of The House at Zaronza.

It’s a delight to watch an author grow into her talent. I admire Perrat’s historical fiction, but here she really comes into her own. In moving closer to the present and to her own Australian background, she produces a riveting tale of human frailty and deceit that kept me enthralled even as I dreaded what might happen next. C.P. Lesley, author of the Legends of the Five Directions series.

… nothing better than a good twist or two in a plot, but this was a first for me – one final hammer dropping on the very last page that made my jaw drop! Cindy Taylor, Book Blogger.

The mystery keeps you turning the pages; the description transports you to another place, another time; and the characters by turns amuse, infuriate, entertain and conjure a sense of poignancy and regret. Tricia Gilbey, writer and reader.

… as well-written psychological thrillers often do, it makes you question everything you think you know, culminating in a true twist of an ending that both shocks and makes you ask "Why didn't I figure this out sooner?" Courtney J. Hall, historical fiction, romance and contemporary author.

Reviews of The Silent Kookaburra:
 
's review
May 12, 2017

it was amazing
bookshelves: historical-fiction, drama

The story opens with Tanya packing up her parents’ home after their deaths. An old newspaper cutting her grandmother saved brings memories rushing back and, despite her uneasiness and resistance, pulls Tanya back to the sweltering summer of 1973 and her eleven year old self.

The story is narrated from Tanya’s perspective in the third person. She is overjoyed at the birth of her baby sister, after multiple miscarriages suffered by her mother. The family, along with Nanna Purvis, live in Gumtree Cottage, Wollongong, a small town in New South Wales.

Gumtree Cottage is thought to be cursed because it was built by ex convicts with blood money, but with Shelley’s arrival Tanya hopes their little family can be happy and content at last. However, Shelley is a difficult baby, colicky and distressed, her continual crying shredding nerves until family life eventually disintegrates. Tanya’s mother retreats into a world of her own, her father spends most of his spare time at the pub and Nanny Purvis isn’t much help, so it’s left to Tanya to try and keep things together. Not full of confidence to begin with, her lack of self-esteem drops further as she enters a vicious circle of comfort eating and hating herself and her weight, intensified by the constant bullying from her peers. Tanya is ripe for someone dangerous and unscrupulous to take advantage.

Written extremely well with wonderful, distinct characterisations and incredible imagery, this is a poignant story driven by cause and effect, the characters’ reactions completely convincing. Dealing with sensitive subjects, abuse, post natal depression and grooming amongst others, it’s sometimes difficult to see things through Tanya’s eyes. There’s so much she doesn’t yet understand or isn’t able to express but the reader can see where certain situations are heading, sharpening the suspense and the sense of danger, while dread of the likely end result builds.

It wasn’t hard to become immersed in the story, the sense of time and place is intense and the mindset and attitudes along with dialogue are completely believable. I love Nanna Purvis’ hilarious misuse of words and strongly held opinions.

One unanswered question has haunted Tanya ever since that summer. The narrative ends where it began, with Tanya at her parents’ house as the story comes to a completely unexpected and shattering conclusion. Liza Perrat’s descriptive, assured prose and story telling skills make this a compelling and evocative read.

I chose to read and review The Silent Kookaburra based on a digital copy of the book supplied by the author/publisher.
***
's review
Apr 17, 2017

really liked it
bookshelves: 2017

This is my first read for author Liza Perrat and I thoroughly enjoyed her beautiful writing style.

Liza Perrat transforms you into living side by side with eleven year old Tanya Randall in Wollongong Australia. Tanya hasn't had the easiest childhood so far with being bullied for her weight and how she looks. All that Tanya is wishing for is a happy family with a baby sister or baby brother. Tanya's mother Eleanor has had multiple miscarriages in the past but miraculously she becomes pregnant and has baby girl Shelley. Eleanor is finally feeling at ease with her new baby sister, mother, father, and Nana Purvis living in Gumtree Cottage.

Slowly, the seams start to unravel for the Randall family and life is definitely not as it seems for Tanya. Although, Tanya befriends a mysterious uncle Blackie that she never knew that she had. When Tanya brings up this Uncle Blackie with her immediate family, they frequently avoid talking about this mysterious uncle.

This novel touches upon some very challenging issues that present in our society. Child neglect, postpartum depression, alcoholism, and child abuse. Tragedy struck for this family and grief was overwhelming resulting in an unhealthy way of each family member "coping" with the grief. Tanya experienced and witnessed traumatic events that little girls should definitely not have to go through.

This was an emotional read that pulls on your heart!

Towards the end I felt like it was getting a bit stale and was wondering when the puzzle would all be connected... I got a little bored but it connected nicely at the end :).

What I really enjoyed about this novel is how inspiring Liza Perrat's writing style is! Beautifully expressed across the pages. I, at times felt like I was actually seeing the descriptions of the land, animals, and smells of Australia.

Overall, strong 4 stars for this one!! :)
***
's review
Apr 07, 2017
star rating : 4.5/5
really liked it

The reader is taken on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, feeling sorry for and intensely protective of the unsuspecting and innocent Tanya, blisteringly angry at the predatory Uncle Blackie, full of contempt for the parents who don't even notice the danger their own child is in, but also pity for their personal tragedies. Then there is the straight-talking Nanna Purvis, always there to offer some words of wisdom and a bit of light relief from all the drama.

The Silent Kookaburra takes place in a time period that I know well from my own childhood - the 1970's - but the geographical setting in Australia is far removed from the one I knew in the south east of England. Nevertheless, I recognised the attitudes and lifestyles of many of the characters in the novel - the almost unlimited freedom that children were given when they went out to play, even without mobile phones to keep tabs on them, and the more traditional roles that men and women still had - dad working or off down the pub while mum kept house or got a little part time job, more as a novelty or hobby than as a real source of income.

Back then, in the seventies and eighties of my youth, there was no internet and grooming someone meant smearing glittery pink eyeshadow all over their eyelids and backcombing their hair to within an inch of its life. Nevertheless, despite looking back with rose-tinted spectacles and thinking that today's generation of kids face new evils that we never had to deal with, I still remember stories on TV or even dodgy word-of-mouth tales of local perverts that were shared as urban legends but quite possibly were ingrained in truth.

The main character in the story is eleven-year-old Tanya Randall, a typical tween who is growing into a new body she no longer feels comfortable with, frequently gets a hard time from the school bullies and feels a bit lonely with her parents going through the private grief of not being able to conceive. When Shelley, the miracle baby, finally arrives, she should be the answer to all of their prayers - a bundle of joy for the whole family to pour their love into and a soon-to-be new playmate for Tanya. However, in a cruel twist of fate, she ends up being a very colicky baby who cries constantly and pushes the family to breaking point. Then the unthinkable happens and life will never be the same for any of them ever again.

In this backdrop of family trauma and misery, a new uncle puts in an appearance - one that wants to be Tanya's secret friend because her dad and nanna wouldn't want him to be around. A very special friend, with benefits (all his), who promises to take photos of her that will allow her to be a model. As a parent, it's so easy to see through his sweet-talking and warped desires, but he is so manipulative that he soon has Tanya exactly where he wants her.

The reader is taken on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, feeling sorry for and intensely protective of the unsuspecting and innocent Tanya, blisteringly angry at the predatory Uncle Blackie, full of contempt for the parents who don't even notice the danger their own child is in, but also pity for their personal tragedies. Then there is the straight-talking Nanna Purvis, always there to offer some words of wisdom and a bit of light relief from all the drama.

It's an enthralling and harrowing story, set against a backdrop of social change in 1970's Australia, but which could (sadly) take place anytime and anywhere.

Prior to this novel, I have also reviewed the three novels from Liza Perrat's Bone Angel historical fiction series : Spirit of Lost AngelsWolfsangelBlood Rose Angel. Click through to read those reviews.




on 8 February 2017
Returning to her roots for her fourth novel, Liza Perrat, expertly changes genre from historical France to Seventies Australia.
All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall really wants is a happy family life at Gumtree Cottage, set among exotic blooms and the red-flowering gum that is home to their own cackling Kookaburra.
But life at Gumtree Cottage – built by convict ancestors – seems strangely cursed as Tanya’s Mum loses baby after baby. Her Mum’s mother, Nana Purvis, is no help with her acidic commentary and addiction to True Crime magazine. Tanya has her own little guilty secret – she hides her copy of True Crime inside Dolly magazine.
At first it seems Gumtree Cottage’s curse may at last have been broken and happiness made possible by the arrival of little sister Shelley – christened by the family their little gumnut girl. Perfect as can be, she lies in her pram in the shade of the eucalyptus –gumnut - tree where Mr Kooka chatters and cocks a watchful eye. But true crime and tragedy lurk, not just in a cheap magazine but closer than anyone can imagine.
As Tanya’s world unravels against a backdrop of blistering heat, blinding light, heady fragrance, the screams of her little sister, honeyed tones of her new ally, secrets and lies, the author takes us with deceptive lightness of touch and nuance, to the darkest corners of the human condition. Tanya’s innocent pre-pubescent perspective does not equip her with our contemporary labels. She’s just trying to make it through. Told through her own innocent eyes, with a blend of authentic Aussie grit and painful vulnerability, there is also beautifully observed evocative detail and even humour. But though we know Tanya is a survivor – as her older self returning to Gumtree Cottage is where we begin - can we possibly guess the outcome? This book will keep you thinking long after the end, as all the best stories should. A powerful, touching and thought-provoking novel.
***
's review
Mar 30, 2017

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-and-reviewed
Read 2 times. Last read March 10, 2017.

This is a really well-written and absorbing story. Set in 1970s small-town Australia it centres on Tanya – an unhappy child, overweight, bullied at school and trying to cope with her mother who has been devastated by a series of miscarriages. Her father loves her, but he doesn’t cope either, seeking solace far too often in the local pub, and her grandmother, Nanna Purvis, is a hard woman, although her kindness shines through as the novel progresses.
When her mum finally gives birth to a daughter, Tanya thinks things will be fine, but problems with baby Shelley’s health, cracks in her parents’ marriage and the arrival on the scene of creepy Uncle Blackie mean that Tanya has much more to deal with than she can cope with.
And things only get worse.
But this isn’t a miserable story. Yes, some parts are uncomfortable to read. I wanted to whisk poor Tanya away and give her a cuddle and a decent meal. But there are glimpses of hope – Nanna Purvis, who underneath her hard exterior is full of love, and Tanya’s best friend Angela and her kind and loving (if possibly criminal!) family.
The author obviously knows her setting well and there’s a real sense of time and place with little details about food, TV and fashion giving the realistic touches that make this novel so authentic.
A well-executed book about family, relationships and the extraordinary things that can happen in ordinary lives.

***
's review
Mar 12, 2017

really liked it

This is the first book that I have read by Liza Perrat and I enjoyed it very much. Set in Australia in the 1970's, we meet eleven year old Tanya Randall and her dysfunctional family. A slow burner of a book, which nevertheless makes you want to keep turning the pages to find out exactly what is going to happen to these characters.
***
's review
Mar 24, 2017

really liked it
bookshelves: finished

Set in Wollongong, Australia between 1972 and 2016.

Tanya, 11 years old and living with her parents and Nanna Purvis at Gumtree Cottage. The name of the cottage reminds me of a quiet and quaint cosy home, but Gumtree Cottage is far from that. There has been nothing but bad luck for Tanya and her family at this house. Bad luck that drives her mother insane and her father to booze.

The characters are all very unique and interesting. Tanya, ashamed of her weight and desperate for her mother and father to be ‘normal’ turns to her Uncle Blackie for the love and attention that she so badly needs. But he is ‘a bad man, a pervert’. This phrase keeps coming back to haunt Tanya throughout the book, words that were spoken by Nanna Purvis and Tanya’s best friend Angela. Tanya falls for Uncle Blackie’s soft words and grooming tactics from the start. Something deep down is telling her that this is not right, something is wrong. But how can he be a bad man? There is a twist at the end of the story that was totally unexpected.

Nanna Purvis grows on you. She is hard faced and stern, but soft in the middle. A character that has you disliking her at first, but like the sun hidden behind a cloud, she begins to slowly come out into the clear blue sky and shine. Her phrases are hilarious at times and had me laughing aloud.

The story for me was very good; I found it difficult to put my Kindle down. A real page-turner and a story that I would read again. This is a tale with mixed emotions throughout. I laughed, I cried and I was shocked. Everything required for a good read.

I felt uncomfortable a times reading the chapters that included child molestation. It was not overdone or anything like that, I simply felt ill at ease reading these parts. But, having said that, they were necessary for the story to unfold.

Liza Perrat writes with feeling and humour, each and every word written to draw the reader in.

  ***
's review
Mar 03, 2017

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2017-favourites, challenge-2017

Wow. Like seriously, wow! The back cover of the book says this story will get under your skin and that is not a lie. I can't stop thinking about it.

Set in Australia in the early 1970's, this novel tackles a number of dark and disturbing topics, seen through the eyes of our narrator, eleven-year-old Tanya.

Tanya struggles at school. She's not the prettiest, nor the skinniest but what she wants more than anything, is a happy family. Sadly her mother has suffered multiple miscarriages and this has left its mark. When finally baby Shelley joins the household, Tanya thinks things might be looking up and her wish of a happy family will come true. But then tragedy strikes and the family will never be the same again.

There's also uncle Blackie who befriends Tanya. But why won't anyone in the family talk about him? And why should Tanya keep their friendship a secret?

This book may be upsetting to some readers as it deals with mental issues and paedophilia, amongst others. It's heartbreakingly sad and incredibly tense but so amazingly well written and I just couldn't put it down. It's powerful, authentic, realistic and believable. Having Tanya as a narrator works extremely well, especially when seeing things unfold no child her age should have to deal with.

Liza Perrat describes everything quite vividly. I've never been to Australia but had no problem imagining the hot summer temperatures, the sounds of the various animals and even the smells. Mentions of popstars of old and the fun Australian slang only added to the experience. As do many of the things that come out Nana Purvis' mouth, fitting for that day and age.

The Silent Kookaburra is one gripping and compelling novel and I can't recommend it enough.

Many, many thanks to Liza Perrat for sending me a copy of this novel. It was my utmost pleasure to read and review.


***
's review
Mar 03, 2017

really liked it

Set in 1970s Wollongong, Australia, The Silent Kookaburra is told through the eyes of Tanya Randall, an overweight girl, socially excluded at school, teetering on the edge of womanhood. Uncertain of her place in the world, Tanya clings to family. And it's that family that make Perrat's novel so special. There's Mum, obsessively cleaning, trying to block out memories of the multiple miscarriages she's suffered; there's Dobson, Tanya's well-meaning, alcoholic father doing his best to hold the family together; there's the fantastically opinionated Nanna Purvis, whose dry wit and sparkling dialogue light up the page; there's much longed for, perfect, baby Shelley and finally there's Uncle Blackie, whose dubious past looms threateningly like a dark storm cloud ready to disrupt Tanya's summer. And yet, despite all their problems, Perrat's writing means this novel is anything but gloomy. Instead it's a wonderful portrayal of time and place, a page-turner with family at it's heart.

***

's review
Feb 20, 2017

it was amazing

The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat is a hauntingly poignant story, set in small town Australia primarily in 1973 and told through the voice of eleven year old Tanya Randall. Perrat does not shy away from dark subject matter such as paedophilia, mental illness and bereavement but she offsets the horror with her lyrical, almost poetic writing.

From the opening page, Perrat evokes in her reader an uneasy ominous tension as the middle-aged Tanya is going through her grandmother’s things and finds a newspaper clipping from January 26th 1973. As Tanya’s memories are invoked, we are left in no doubt that this date was catastrophic for the family and this foreshadowing hangs over the rest of the novel.

One of the most effective aspects of the novel is the way that eleven year old Tanya relates her childhood through her own innocent eyes whilst the reader has a more knowing perspective. Consequently the story takes on an added dimension as the reader has more idea of what is actually happening than the young narrator. We read with a sense of dread, knowing what is about to unfold as she is unable to process what she is telling us.

This sense of tension is increased as Perrat sets events to a backdrop of unbearable heat which heightens the emotions of the characters adding to the reader’s sense of foreboding. There are also constant references to Australia’s history and the idea that everything is built on the blood of convicts which leaves it tainted. Tanya and her parents and grandmother live in Gumtree Cottage which Nanna Purvis believes is cursed as a result of being built by convicts, “built on blood money”. It’s also significant that January 26th which becomes so fateful for the family is Australia Day which marks the anniversary of convict ships arriving in Sydney.

The power of this novel comes from Perrat’s skill at characterisation. Tanya is heartbreakingly real – a vulnerable, lonely girl, bullied and called “Ten-ton Tanya” by the other kids. She’s caught in the vicious cycle of comfort eating and then hating herself for being overweight. As the reader helplessly watches Tanya teetering on the brink of disaster it’s almost too much to bear.

The fact that the novel is set in 1973 highlights the way the world has changed and, despite the dark undertones, anyone who survived the 70s will find much humour in the realistic depiction. For example the casual use of Valium which is handed around like Smarties and the nips of Sherry given to children for medicinal purposes. Not to mention a diet which basically consists of biscuits and sugar.
A product of her time is Nanna Purvis, a hilariously irreverent character. Her malapropisms such as calling her varicose veins “very cows veins” and the no-nonsense often course way she views the world made me laugh uncontrollably. My favourite line is when she dismisses Tanya’s nemesis and chief bully Stacy Mornon with, “Wasn’t her head too big for her mother’s fanny?” Typical of her time, Nanna Purvis is racist, casually referring to an Italian family as “dirty eyeties,” this reflects the tensions that were rife as Australia became more multi-cultural.

Perrat uses her novel to tackle some very serious issues, most notably paedophilia. I found it particularly affecting how she uses Tanya’s perspective to emphasise the complexities of grooming. Tanya is singled out because she is vulnerable and the paedophile exploits her vulnerabilities to manipulate her whilst successfully inserting himself into her family. I think Perrat does a great job of portraying the pervasive nature of child abuse and the reasons why it so often goes unreported.

The novel also explores mental illness in the shape of Tanya’s mother, Eleanor. At a time when very little was understood about mental health and treatment was limited, Eleanor’s manic depression is worsened by grief and Perrat describes her descent into madness in a vivid and believable way. We also see how mental illness effects the whole family as Tanya’s entire childhood is defined by her mother’s black moods which hang over the house making her feel like “The Invisible Girl.”

Tanya’s childhood is a real childhood rather than the imagined, idealised ones that are often depicted in fiction. Children are brutally cruel and the bullying and name calling is relentless. Tanya has no control over her life whatsoever and is at the mercy of her parents’ actions and behaviour. Her only friend is Angela Moretti who is also ostracised because she is Italian.

The novel ends as it began with the middle-aged Tanya bringing the reader up to date with her life. The ending for me was a complete sucker punch as Perrat lulled me into believing that she had opted for the fairytale finale only to deliver a final blow that left me reeling.

The Silent Kookaburra is a novel that I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s an intelligent portrayal of real life with all its flaws that will leave you thinking long after you’ve finished reading it.
 ***
's review
Feb 06, 2017

really liked it

YAY! With three previous works of amazing historical fiction under her belt, Liza Perrat does it again with, no, not another historical fiction, but this, a novel of psychological suspense. And my, is the suspense palpable.

In a total about-change from her previous novels which are set in rural France, The Silent Kookaburra, a truly chilling read made all the more so by the fact its narrated by eleven year old Tanya Randall, is set in 1970's Australia.

Taunted by many of her peers and with a mother who has mental health problems, I saw much of my younger self in the pre-pubescent Tanya. But it wasn't Tanya, nor indeed her seemingly dysfunctional family, who captured my imagination so much as Nanna Purvis.

A relative many of us growing up in the early 1960's to late 1970's will recognise. An opinionated character who, 'tells it as she sees it', Nanna Purvis is as ignorant as much as she is prejudiced but, with her 'very cow's veins' and friendship with Old Lenny, provides some wonderfully light moments which considering the books themes - severe depression, adultery, paedophilia, the death of a baby, etc - are sorely needed.

Every inch the tale of a family struggling with its demons .. past and present. Though without a doubt dark, there is nothing gratuitous in the author's writing. Indeed I commend her wonderful story-telling for the fact that whilst of course I wanted Tanya's tormentor to get their comeuppance (who wouldn't?) at the same time a part of me came to understand that they too had their demons albeit ones that could never justify their heinous actions.

Copyright: Tracy Terry @ Pen and Paper
Disclaimer: Read and reviewed on behalf of the author, no financial compensation was asked for nor given.
***

's review
Feb 12, 2017

it was amazing
Read 2 times. Last read February 12, 2017 to February 18, 2017.

Didn’t know what to expect with this book, it was pushed as a “psychological thriller”, a genre which I have not delved into before.
Very fortunate that I had the opportunity to read The Silent Kookaburra. It's the first book that I have chewed through in a matter of days, eagerly turning each page and becoming lost in the story.
Another great aspect of the novel was it's location. Set in Wollongong there were some terrific references to streets and landmarks across the Illawarra. As someone who works in Wollongong, it made the book real.
The subject matter is dark, especially when you can see where author is about to take the story. At times, even confronting.
There's often a mantra in life on the importance grandparents play in children's lives. The cantankerous but loving matriarch, Nanna Purvis epitomises that notion. Plus, she made me chuckle a number of times.
The Silent Kookaburra is a novel I can highly recommend.
***

Reviewed by Terry Tyler as a member of Rosie Amber's Review TeamEvery so often I find a real gem in the review team submission list, and this was one of them. I thoroughly enjoyed it; Liza Perrat is an excellent writer.

The story takes place in the early 1970s in a quiet town in New South Wales called Wollongong, and is narrated by eleven year old Tanya, who lives with her alcoholic but not unlikable father, Dobson, her disturbed mother, Eleanor, who has miscarried many children, and her grandmother, Nanna Purvis. It's sad, tragic and funny, all at the same time. Behind the story of every day life lurks the shadow of child abuse, madness and murder, but these are dealt with so cleverly that the book doesn't seem particularly dark. If you can imagine that.

Eleanor finally manages to carry a child to term and Tanya is sure their family life will improve, but events take several turns for the worse, and she has to deal with great uncertainty about her future. I wouldn't have thought I'd like a whole novel written from the point of view of such a young girl, but one reads so much between the lines as Tanya reveals more to the reader than she understands herself. Danger and intrigue is added by the appearance of the mysterious, seedy Uncle Blackie, the various nosy neighbours, the girls who tease Tanya for being fat, and her Italian friend Angela's are-they-drug-dealers-or-aren't-they family.

On the verge of adolescence, Tanya veers between excitement about becoming a woman, and comfort eating her way through her disintegrating family life. One question remains in her mind, and is still there at the end of the book, an epilogue that takes place forty years later.

The characterisation in this book is brilliant. Nanna Purvis is hilarious, a real old Aussie matriarch, and the atmosphere of the family's slightly backward way of life of 45 years ago is so well portrayed. I notice from the Author's Note that Liza Perrat lived in Wollongong, and there are many popular culture references to the time, including items of food that Ms Perrat must have eaten back then, but, unlike other books in which this occurs, I didn't find it contrived, or as if it was a deliberate strategy to press nostalgia buttons. It worked (I particularly liked Nanny Purvis and her Iced VoVos).

It's really, really good. You won't be disappointed.

***
 
2090731's review
Feb 04, 2017

it was amazing

In 1970s Australia eleven year old Tanya Randall is growing up in a family which always seems to be at odds with itself. Her mother is not quite functioning on all cylinders, her father spends too much time and too much money in local bars and even the curmudgeonly Nanna Purvis does little to help to relieve the stress that Tanya faces. Bullied at school for her weight problem and her friendship with the 'foreign' girl, Angela, Tanya seems to be forever just one step out of step with both her family and her peers. The arrival of Shelley, her sickly baby sister, does nothing to help relieve the unrelenting unhappiness of Tanya's life. The only bright spot is Tanya's clandestine meetings with someone who may bring even more problems into her already troubled life.

What then follows is a tightly plotted psychological thriller which induces all the languor and the heat of a blisteringly hot Australian summer. The image of a sad and lonely adolescent is beautifully described as is the waywardness and emptiness of a family who are damaged irreparably by the events which unfold during this time.

The Silent Kookaburra is a real departure for this author whose previous novels include the excellent historical Bone Angel series and as a huge fan of that series I wasn’t sure whether I would be disappointed by the author’s change of direction. I’m pleased to say that I was hugely impressed by this novel. Throughout the story the psychological tension is palpable as is Tanya’s involvement in the unfolding events of which she is too inexperienced to fully understand. The writing is flawless and only someone who has a deep affinity for this part of Australia can write with such descriptive assurance. Time and place came completely to life for me; I could hear the ‘Garooagarooagaroo’ cackle of the Kookaburra and could smell the sweet scented jasmine that whispered in the slight breeze above the gum tree where baby Shelley lay whingeing in her pram. But most of all I fell in love with Tanya, naïve, unsophisticated and yet with a wisdom that belied her tender years, all I wanted was for her to find some sort of peaceful resolution to counterbalance the horror of what was being thrown at her by her dysfunctional family life.

The Silent Kookaburra is a tight and tense family drama which engages the reader’s attention from start to finish, and which bears all the hallmarks of this talented author’s fine attention to detail and natural story telling ability. 
 ***

5.0 out of 5 starsA powerful psychological thriller
on December 28, 2016
Verified Purchase

I couldn't put this book down and read it in a day.

Powerful and emotional this is a great psychological thriller that draws the reader in from the first page.

Highly recommend.
***
on January 13, 2017

It’s the summer of 1973, and eleven-year-old Tanya understands that all is not well with her family. Her baby sister cries nonstop, her mother has sunk into depression following yet another miscarriage, and her father spends far too much time at the pub. Taking refuge in food makes her the target of her school’s mean girls, yet she does her best to hold it together. But when a mysterious uncle barges into her life, the fabric concealing the family’s secrets gradually unravels, and Tanya finds herself in the midst of a crisis that soon leads to murder.

It’s a delight to watch an author grow into her talent. I admire Perrat’s historical fiction, especially Blood Rose Angel, but here she really comes into her own. In moving closer to the present and to her own Australian background, she produces a riveting tale of human frailty and deceit that kept me enthralled even as I dreaded what might happen next.
***

on December 12, 2016

Eleven year old Tanya Randall was teased and bullied at school – she was overweight and had only one friend, Angela whose family was Italian so Angela was teased and bullied as well. It was the 1970s in Wollongong Australia and Tanya knew her mother Eleanor had been trying to have a baby for a long time. She had had many miscarriages until finally baby Shelley arrived, healthy and beautiful. Tanya and her family; Mum, Dad, Nanna Purvis and now Shelley all lived in Gumtree Cottage where they’d lived for as long as she could remember.

Baby Shelley was a delight to Tanya – she loved her little sister and cared for her while her mother did the housework. But when Shelley was crying with colic, continually and without a break, the family began to fracture. Tanya’s dad would disappear to the pub; her mother would clean everything in sight – no one knew how to help little Shelley. One day though, Tanya met an uncle she hadn’t known she had – the closeness she was no longer feeling at home was made better by her kind and generous uncle.

And when tragedy struck the family, their grief seemed insurmountable – what had happened; who was responsible; what would they do? Life would never be the same again…

The Silent Kookaburra by Aussie author Liza Perrat is an intense and gripping psychological thriller that tears at the heartstrings and makes you want to do something to stop what you just know is going to happen! 1970s Australia was a time of change and the setting of the novel as well as the time – day after day of relentless heat – was extremely authentic. Nanna Purvis was a typical rough and tough old lady of the time. A thoroughly enjoyable novel, The Silent Kookaburra is one I highly recommend.
***
 0 out of 5 starsAnother page-turner
on December 8, 2016

characters: the neighbours and relatives who make up the diverse cast of the story. As with all Perrat’s novels, the setting is vivid and sensual: the industrial backdrop, with the soot, grime and coal tankers of Port Kembla in stark juxtaposition to the coastal beauty of Australia’s crashing waves and wide beaches, its stunning flora and fauna, including of course, the central motif of the kookaburra.

The story is told from the point of view of an eleven-year-old girl, Tanya. Her family can only be described as dysfunctional: a mother who cleans obsessively, a father with a drink problem, a grandma who bosses everyone around and has a penchant for lewd magazines, a baby sister who never stops crying, and dogs forever yapping. The story takes a very dark turn when Tanya’s uncle makes an appearance in her life. He seems at first to be her saviour from the depressing madness of family life, but he has a very different agenda in mind. Tension mounts as Tanya increasingly looks to her Uncle Blackie for both escape and excitement. When a tragedy takes place concerning Tanya’s baby sister, Shelley, the family begins to fall apart and those who should be caring for her have no idea of the danger she’s in.

I adored this story for its vivid settings, its 70s vibe, authentic characters, fabulous dialogue, its gripping central mystery and its heart-in-mouth tension. Absolutely recommended.
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0 out of 5 starsA gripping psychological thriller that makes you question everything you think you know
on December 20, 2016

The Silent Kookaburra might be a departure for author Liza Perrat, but it's a true gem for her fans. An enthralling mystery full of twists and turns, the book is told from the point of view of eleven-year-old Tanya, a nearly-friendless and bullied girl living in 1970s Australia. When her mother gives birth to a healthy baby girl after years of miscarriages and dwindling hope, everything finally seems perfect for the family - until a series of events cause a tragedy that rips the happiness away from them and threatens to destroy the family.

The rest of the story follows Tanya as she attempts to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy while trying to keep her family together and herself from falling prey to a long-lost uncle who's mysteriously reappeared. But as well-written psychological thrillers often do, it makes you question everything you think you know, culminating in a true twist of an ending that both shocks and makes you ask "Why didn't I figure this out sooner?"

A truly gripping story, The Silent Kookaburra is a can't-miss.
***
 A story that you feel, not just read!
on January 15, 2017
True rating - 4.5 stars.

Wow! Where to begin? Anyone can put words on paper, but a talented writer has a way with those words, a way of arranging them so that they make the reader feel the story, not just read it. Liza Perrat is one of those writers, and although I’m not sure if this will make sense or not, that is the reason why sometimes I wasn’t sure how I felt about The Silent Kookaburra . It made me smile, gave me the creeps, made me want to cry, made me laugh, made me frustrated and angry, and often made me want to jump into the book and hug people, shake people, or in some cases punch people. But then on the other hand, like young Tanya, the main character, sometimes I wasn’t sure whether my feelings were accurate or justified. Liza is very adept at throwing out little bones for the reader to snatch up, without giving up everything, so the wheels in my mind were always turning, trying to figure out how the story was going to play out.

I really don’t want to give any of the plot away, but I think it's safe to say that this is a story of a family trying to deal with multiple emotional and physical struggles where I was often left wondering how much more this family could take. With my heart still trying to recover, I breathed a sigh of relief at the ending, or what I thought was the ending. There is nothing better than a good twist or two in a plot, but this was a first for me – one final hammer dropping on the very last page that made my jaw drop!

In a story such as this that deals with family dynamics and how each family member deals with tragedy as well as their own demons from the past, character development is of the utmost importance because it is the characters that drive the plot. In A Silent Kookaburra, the colourful and diverse cast of characters leapt right off the pages and became real to me because the descriptions were so vivid. I laughed at the bossy antics of Nanna Purvis, and wept for Tanya as her parents’ grief pulled then further and further away from her at a time when she needed them most. Each character fights his/her demons in their own way – mom compulsively cleans, dad drinks too much, Tanya eats constantly, and Nanna Purvis gripes. Their pain and despair just seeps from the pages, but I found myself rooting for this family, especially Tanya, whose life experiences only served to make her stronger. I wanted her to speak out and fight for herself but I could also understand the battling emotions within her. All she wants is happiness, and that happiness includes a whole family free from pain and suffering. Isn’t that what we all strive for, even though life is never easy? Along with the wonderful character development are Liza’s other amazing descriptive skills. There is not a detail missed about anything, one of my favourites being the wonderful description of Tanya’s home, Gumtree Cottage. It is compared in great detail to a face, which was truly magical and brought a smile to my face.

Another aspect of Liza Perrat’s writing that I love is that it is always a learning experience. Each book leaves me more knowledgeable about something, in this case life in Australia and in particular what it was like growing up there in the 1970’s. Interesting nuggets about Australia’s history were woven into the story as well, which I really enjoyed.

In some ways, this was a hard read for me because it made me feel so much, but it was an amazing read at the same time, and I highly recommend it.
 ***
on January 15, 2017
This novel is great for expats remembering Australian bush and Australia in the 70s- the animals, weather, sounds of birds.

It's ideal as a YA novel as it follows a single, well-paced narrative. Also, it's cleverly and believably told through the voice and perspective of a 12 year old girl.

The plot is a slow burn- leading into the inevitable and terrible climax, with a chillling plot twist.

Despite a slightly contrived start, it warms up into a compelling tale and satisfying read.
***
on January 2, 2017
The Silent Kookaburra is yet another wonderful book by Liza Perrat. It is very different to her historical Bone Angel series as it is set in Wollongong, a large industrial city in Australia in the 1970's. As Perrat grew up in this city, she is able to draw accurately from her own experience as well as having been a nurse and midwife. The story is centred on a working class family who are struggling to cope with the pressures of life. The father, Dobson, works in the local steel mill and wife, Eleanor, does not work as she is frequently recovering from yet another miscarriage which sends her into depression. Their only child, 11 year old Tanya, tries to help her mother in the house but is confused and lonely by her mother's behaviour. The tense atmosphere in the household is exacerbated by Eleanor's bossy mother, Nanna Purvis, who lives with them with her annoying yapping dog and does not get on well with the father. At last, the long awaited baby, Shelley, arrives to the delight of everyone. However, all seems well until the baby continues to cry incessantly which creates an even greater tension. The mother, Eleanor, is distraught and develops a mental illness demonstrated by her obsessive cleaning. Nine months later after Shelly's birth, a terrible tragedy occurs in the family which breaks up the family relationships as they all have different ways of handling their grief.

The story cleverly interweaves many social issues that are still just as relevant now. Trying to survive on a low income, post natal depression, the grieving process, a family relative accused of paedophilia who lures young and vulnerable Tanya who is being ignored and in need of comfort, and racism against newly arrived immigrants. The setting of the book is in a hot Australian summer and Perrat brilliantly describes the relentless, simmering heat that adds to the exhaustion of everyone. Life with a crying baby and tired family and the continuous heat creates a tense atmosphere that absorbs the reader into this scenario.
As with her other books, Perrat's easy style of writing makes one want to continue reading especially when the reader feels the tension building and that a drama is about to occur.
Congratulations to Liza Perrat for another great book, she is a natural story teller.
 ***
on December 19, 2016
I have greatly enjoyed Liza Perrat’s historical fiction series, the Bone Angel trilogy, and this latest novel is quite a departure from her usual fictional stamping ground, so I was intrigued to see how she would bring it off. If anything, this novel is even more accomplished than her previous ones. Liza Perrat brings her sureness of touch, vivid characterisation and ability to convey a strong sense of time and place to this story set in 1970s Australia.

The story is told through the point of view of Tanya, a girl on the cusp of puberty. Her previously happy family becomes increasingly dysfunctional until a tragic event tears it apart. The story also becomes increasingly dark when the mysterious and sinister Uncle Blackie appears on the scene. Tanya has to grow up fast but still retains a touching naivety and a hope that things will turn out alright. She learns that help can sometimes come from surprising quarters.

All the characters are believable and well-drawn, but I particularly loved the character of Nanna Purvis with her colourful repertoire of Australian slang, her dirty magazines and her no-nonsense approach to life.

Everyone shuts their eyes to what’s really going on around them and the tension ramps up throughout the novel until you get to the twist at the end. This is a real page-turner.
 ***
Verified Purchase
I'm not surprised that all the reviews here to date seem to be 5 stars. This is an amazing domestic thriller with a gripping storyline, vivid dialogue, a palpable sense of place and time, and a compelling cast of characters that I can't get out of my head. As Nanna Purvis would say, 'You gotta stare the goanna in the guts' - it is a rollicking good read. 
 ***
out of 5 starsDomestic Noir With a Twist By Chris C on 15 Dec. 2016
I have to admit that as an avid reader of psychological crime I have become a little tired of disappearing children or characters trapped in dysfunctional marriages. So I’m happy to report that whilst still having the twisty plot and complex relationships that make for a great domestic noir, The Silent Kookaburra offers something refreshingly different.

It’s 1970s Australia and young Tanya is on the cusp of becoming a teenager. The sun shines, the beach is nearby, but Tanya is far from living the Ozzie dream. She feels fat and ugly and her family is falling apart. The birth of a beautiful baby after a series of miscarriages promises to bring them all happiness, but things soon go wrong and Mum is back to her obsessive cleaning, whilst Dad retreats to the pub. Nanna Purvis has plenty to say (and her salty dialogue is a joy) but offers no help. Poor Tanya does her best, but it’s hardly surprising that when Dad’s ne’er-do-well brother, Uncle Blackie, turns up she is flattered by his attentions.

The story becomes ever more claustrophobic and sweaty with frustrated desires as tension mounts and it’s clear that a tragedy is brewing. But who is in most danger – and from whom? Liza Perrat fills her story with vivid characters, wonderful description, and a sprinkling of humour that serves to highlight the poignancy of Tanya’s situation. Whether you choose to call it psychological drama, domestic noir or grip lit, this is a book that will keep you enthralled from start to finish. 
***

When Tanya Randall sorts through her family’s old papers she discovers something that invokes difficult memories and sets her on a trail for the truth.

On Australia Day 1973 Tanya’s baby sister Shelley dies unexpectedly and inexplicably in her pram beneath the gum tree. Her mother, already pushed to the edge of reason by the baby’s constant crying, falls into deeper mental distress. Nanna Purvis is shrewish and bitter and Tanya’s father escapes by finding work in another town. Meanwhile, the mysterious Uncle Blackie has been hanging around. But is his object of interest Tanya or her mother?

Tanya struggles to find out the truth about the baby’s death but she is only eleven years old. No one else seems to know or care much. The only certainty is that no one in this unfortunate family will ever be the same after Shelley dies.

This is a story of lost innocence and searing sadness. It is a tale of confusion and exploitation and memories gone wrong. Starkly outlined against a hot blue sky and the crushing heat of a Queensland summer, lives are twisted out of shape and casually destroyed.

There are beautiful descriptive passages here and characters who leap off the page. The dialogue is gritty and sharp. Time and place are wonderfully evoked and the thirst and sweat of the narrator is almost tangible, as is the relief that comes when the cooling surf crashes over her head. 
 ***
 .0 out of 5 starsExcellent read! By Carol Ravensdale on 21 Dec. 2016
I have to say this was one of the most compelling reads I have read. Not my usual genre, but as soon as I started reading I was hooked.

This story is told through the point of view of Tanya, a girl on the verge of adulthood. Her previously happy family becomes increasingly dysfunctional until a tragic event tears it apart. The story also becomes increasingly dark when the mysterious and sinister Uncle Blackie appears on the scene. Tanya has to grow up fast but still retains a touching naivety and a hope that things will turn out alright. She learns that help can sometimes come from surprising quarters.

All the characters are believable and well-drawn, but I particularly liked Nanna Purvis with her colourful repertoire of Ozzie slang, especially describing her "very cows veins"! Her dirty magazines and her no-nonsense approach to life makes you love her and her ways, it also brings humour into the book too. I did find myself silently shouting at the mother who loved cleaning more than anything and ignored her daughter so much.

The ending was not at all what I expected though and it brought tears to my eyes.
I would highly recommend this book and look forward to reading some more of Liza's novels in the future, this is definitely a book worth reading! 
 ***

on 22 January 2017
Very different from Liza’s previous novels in its setting, The Silent Kookaburra has the same page-turning qualities with Liza’s skilled description of the characters’ emotional turmoil, where hope runs as a strong undercurrent. The Silent Kookaburra portrays family’s and women’s contemporary issues and choices.
As an ex-teacher, I would recommend it as a novel for discussion in PSHE lessons in secondary schools, as the dangers of grooming are a topical area of the curriculum.
On a lighter note, I loved the Australian terminology and find myself using some of it with great amusement!
Well done again Liza!
 ***
on 17 January 2017
This is the first book that I have read by Liza Perrat and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is set in a town in Australia in the 1970's and is seen through the eyes of the young daughter in the family, Tanya . Parts of the book are emotional to read and you see how all the characters deal with this in their own way unable at times to support each other while dealing with their own issues. My favourite character was Nanna Purvis a straight talking old lady that doesn't mince her words and reminds me of somebody I knew in the 1970's. I look forward to reading Liza's other books.
***

on 13 December 2016
I have read and enjoyed Liza Perrat's Bone Angel series (which I highly recommend) so was a little nervous at this departure from her usual genre. I needn't have worried. Although completely different in style and tone from her other works, this is a gripping read. She brings her knowledge of time and place to the fore and has created a strong and emotional story.
***

on 9 December 2016
In my opinion The Silent Kookaburra is the finest novel this author has written.
A thrilling drama it tells of the sudden mysterious death of a young child and the gradual unravelling of that mystery.
Set in Australia it breathes authenticity, with graphic description of landscape and the total reality of characterisation. It's a fabulous read. I can't rate it highly enough. Once you read the first page I guarantee you won't want – won't be able – to stop.
Top marks.
 ***
on 9 December 2016
Something very different from Liza Perrat. Still the same vivid, strong, bolshy, walk-off-the-page characters as in Liza's historical fiction, but this book is set in the more recent past - in 1970s Australia. It follows a girl called Tanya as everything she'd come to expect is swept away. She has to find a way to grow up and cope alone while her family falls apart. This book is a timely reminder to really take notice when we look at our children, and reveals what can happen when it's just too inconvenient to notice what's going on under our noses. The mystery keeps you turning the pages; the description transports you to another place, another time; and the characters by turns amuse, infuriate, entertain and conjure a sense of poignancy and regret.
***
 Pepca rated it 4 stars
The beginning felt a little slow, but that later on proved necessary as it provided the fine cues for the rest of the story.

I was initially wary of the first person POV. However, Liza Perrat manages to pull off the 11-year-old’s language and rationale with great authenticity and without impoverishing the story. Quite the contrary, the style imbued with local linguistic flavour only enriches it.

While Tanya’s uncle was the sort of a bad person that made me root for the mobsters to take him out, I couldn’t help myself thinking that had he received some help and support, he might not have become what he had. The victim-turned-perpetrator stereotype doesn’t sit well with me: some victims do turn out just like their abusers, but it is not inevitable if the people close to the victims and the society at large offer them proper help.

I loved how in The Silent Kookaburra Perrat seamlessly and with great insight incorporates a number of issues which are still current (or which are, really, current in every age.) These range from poverty, domestic violence, depression, loss of a child, alcoholism, superstition and prejudice against immigrants and people of other religions, and probably some more that I forgot about.

Tanya herself has a lot on her plate, dealing with alienated parents (from each other and the children), bullying, low self-esteem, having to grow-up early, and being the target of the mysterious uncle who says all the right things to make her feel good but has nefarious intentions towards her.

In several ways, I could relate to Tanya, and Liza Perrat captured her struggles in a very genuine manner that truly resonated with me.

At the end of the story, one of the main mysteries of the book remained unresolved. But that is just life; we don’t always get all the answers.

And finally, I loved that Tanya got her happy ending, albeit it was a bit clichéd, and that certain prejudices were overcome for the good of everyone involved.

RECOMMENDATION: The Silent Kookaburra is an incredibly rich story set at the beginning of the era I would consider ‘modern’ that provides a wealth of food-for-thought for everyone not afraid to dig into some, perhaps uncomfortable, but still very current and important issues, and is, therefore, a very compelling read.

Disclaimer: The author has sent me a free copy of The Silent Kookaburra in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

This review was originally posted on my blog, Beyond Strange New Words.

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