Title: The Golden Day
Author: Ursula Dubosarsky
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: April 28th 2015 (first published March 23rd 2011)
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Realistic Fiction
In a year that begins with the hanging of one man and ends with the drowning of another, eleven schoolgirls must embrace their own chilling history when their teacher abruptly goes missing on a field trip. What actually happened that day? Who was the mysterious poet in the garden? And most important, Who can the tell about it?
Part gripping thriller, part ethereal tale, The Golden Day is a poignant study of fear and friendship that, in beautifully crafted rose, reveals how a single shared experience can alter the course of young lives forever.
My First Thoughts:
I’m not usually one for thrillers or mysteries; they’re just not my normal cup of tea. This one, however, grabbed my attention and I decided to read it if not because of the author’s note at the end. I decided to give it a try and broaden my bookshelves some!
The Golden Day is a story set in Australia during the late 1960s and mid-70s. The man focus of this story is on eleven little school girls and a day that changed their lives forever, and the events that followed. However, out of the eleven, only four girls get most of the spotlight: Cubby, Bethany, Icara and Martine. Through these four little girls the reader gets to see how such a traumatic event will alter their psyche, but also push them forward into adulthood, leaving scars that not even time may completely heal.
I loved that this story was set in Australia, because I’ve been there before and I don’t read very many realistic fictions outside my own country, let alone on the opposite side of the world. However, it was very easy to forget sometimes that these little girls were going to school in Australia. It was only when they mentioned region names or the Aborigines that reminded me that the story was set in Australia. The dialogue in the story didn’t really reflect where the girls lived, there were only a few instances where they used different idioms or colloquialisms that I recognized as Australian or didn’t recognize at all.
This story had kind of a large cast of characters, and even though it wasn’t a long story it was still hard to keep the different characters separate from time to time. It also didn’t help that four of the little girls shared the same name and didn’t go by different variations of that name. They were all just Elizabeth, of the four of them only two really said or did more than the others, and one of them only had maybe one or two lines. The author also did a quick character description every time a new character appeared, nothing fancy, she just mentioned the color of hair and eyes, how their age appearance, and possibly what they were wearing.
For me, it was hard to connect with some of the characters, especially the victim of the event. There were times in which they said or did something that resonated with me, but then they would destroy it by doing or saying something that angered me. Honestly, I didn’t feel bad for the victim, because I didn’t really feel any connection or emotion for them. They had some cool ideas and words, but they also had some nasty traits that tainted their personality and didn’t make me feel sorry for them. I felt more emotion and pity for the little girls involved, especially for Cubby and Icara whose interactions seemed to be the most detailed and drove the plot of the story. You see more about their friendship and their reactions to the event than any other girl.
I believe the most interesting thing about this book was the idea of it and how the author created it. The author tells you how she came up with idea in the Author’s Note, but I’ll briefly sum it up. The idea of the little girls and their kind of school life came from the experiences of the author herself. As for the events in the story, they were inspired by different artworks about schoolgirls from different artists, and some of the tragedies that occurred in different regions of Australia, mostly of either missing persons or awful murders. Also, each chapter heading comes from the title of paintings and drawings by Charles Blackman, who’s painting Floating Schoolgirl, planted the first seed in the author’s head.
The one thing that aggravated me the most about this story, was the over use of the word said. As having gone through a number of writing classes, and being a daughter of an author, it was drilled into my head that while said is a good word, it is overused in concerns to dialogue. I was always taught to use words in place of said, especially during scenes with a lot of dialogue to help spruce things up. So it annoyed me when I read over several said’s on the same page. The author did use some other words, but her go to was said, which I understand doesn’t bother everyone but it bothered me.
If you love mystery thrillers, then this book may be up your alley. The mystery isn’t as cut and dry as it may first appear. In fact, the ending took me by surprise and left me a little unsettled and lost. The ending isn’t black and white; it’s up to the reader to decide what really happened. So if you don’t enjoy those kinds of ending then you may not enjoy this book. The ending may have been done that way to intentionally make readers feel unsettled like the girls at the end. However, if you don’t like that feeling then you should steer clear for this book.
If you’re interested about the human psyche and how different people respond to the same traumatic event, then this book may be of interest to you. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if a teacher picks up this book and adds to their reading list for class, either for English or Psychology. While it isn’t full of psychology terms or theories, it definitely allows a person to see the different reactions as if it were a real experiment. As for English, having gone through several reading intensive English classes, including a few years of AP English, this book just seems like it would fit into those reading lists, especially if the class was exploring literature of different time period and/or from different countries.
I believe that this story while interesting, is just a good, average book. It’s a nice quick read for anyone who needs a break between large volumes of books. The plot is very straight forward with very few, if any subplots. There are no scenes that some people would consider unnecessary. And it would interest anyone who is curious about a child’s psyche and how children react differently to the same event.