Monday, June 22, 2015

'Midnite' by Randolph Stow

2015 Reading Challenge, Week 25 - A Book from your Childhood.
When I was 10 years old, I loved this little book so much, I read it over and over again, and for some time, no other books seemed to have any colour. Several years later at Uni, we were given some other Randolph Stow novels for Australian Literature in English, and although they were pretty good, they didn't capture my heart as Midnite did when I was small.

Even though MIDNITE was seventeen, he wasn't very bright. So when his father died, his five animal friends decided to look after him. Khat, the Siamese, suggested he became a bushranger, and his horse, Red Ned, offered to help. But it wasn't very easy, especially when Trooper O'Grady kept putting him in prison.

So it was just as well that in the end he found GOLD!

A brilliantly good-humoured and amusing history of the exploits of Captain Midnite and his five good animal friends.

I loved this book when I was 10 years old, and now that I'm a homeschooling parent, I love it as much for different reasons.

Captain Midnite is a bushranger who has the country's collective heart gripped in terror. Even Queen Victoria is troubled by his frightening reputation. Nobody knows that he is really a 17-year-old with a handful of pet animal confederates, and that he isn't very bright and pretty plain looking (although he can appear almost handsome if he scrubs up).

Another memorable character is Trooper O'Grady, the cop who young Midnite thinks the nicest fellow one could ever meet, but conceals a shady side. Khat, Midnite's fierce Siamese sidekick, is great. Then there is the beautiful, romantically inclined Miss Laura Wellborn, whose greatest desire is to glimpse Captain Midnite's face. The problem is, she doesn't expect a straggly youth.

When I was young, I lapped up the story while the hilarious subtleties, innuendoes, historical references, ironies and Midnite's funny naivety soared right over my head. That's what makes this such a brilliant choice for adults as well as kids. It's not the usual bedtime story that you yawn your way through to keep your children happy. And it sparks interesting conversations and a curiosity about the colonial era in a really positive way.

Overall, you can't help wishing well for the young man who thinks the best of people and takes everything that comes his way at face value.

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