True-life theatre tale grips readers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 June, 2012, 12:00am


India Dark
By Kirsty Murray
Published by Templar
ISBN 978 1 84877 210 6

Kirsty Murray's new novel is based on the true story of a troupe of Australian child performers who toured Asia in the early 1900s. It tells what happened when these exploited kids fought back against their cruel manager.

The plot kicks off in Melbourne in 1909. Thirteen-year-old Poesy Swift is faced with leaving school and getting a job in one of the town's jam makers, or worse still, working in the terrible local match factory.

However, encouraged by an older friend, Poesy auditions for a junior theatre company that tours America and Asia.

Young Poesy has no idea what she is letting herself in for as she dances and sings for the directors of the Lilliputians Theatre Troupe. And soon she is on a boat leaving for a two-year tour of Asia.

The company comprises 29 youngsters aged between seven and 18, and a teacher in charge. Manager Arthur Percival, an unpleasant, insincere man, has his own reasons for going to India. He also treats the children badly.

By the time the troupe arrives in Madras, India, things are at breaking point. What can the youngsters do to protect themselves - and what will happen if they try to break free?

Murray narrates her gripping novel through the voices of two girls. Poesy is an innocent teenager who gets involved in terrible events without really understanding what is going on. Fifteen-year-old Tilly is more mature and out to get what she wants. Their different perspectives add tension to a story already stretched like a tight wire.

India Dark is a classy and absorbing novel. Don't miss it.