Olive the main character in Little Gods is twelve years old, and it is her thoughts and feelings that are followed in this story. She knows her family is different, and it is widely known that her mother’s family were also, “A bit odd.” The background for this unfolding of Olive’s story is the Mallee region, in Victoria, where her uncles were in sheep, not wheat. Olive’s mother and her sister married two brothers, and to continue the unconventionality in this very conventional area, her mother’s name was Audra, her sisters Thistle and Rue.
From the beginning of the story we sense Olive’s isolation. She is a loner, but not by choice. Her mother is very distant, and Olive spends much time outside and with Peter, the one friend she has. Her father helps her to make a cake to celebrate her twelfth birthday, it sinks in the middle, but he solves that problem by filling it with icing. The girl slipped with the food colouring, and the icing became bright red. One of the boys in her class, who the cake was made for, vomits after eating her birthday offering, creating an unpleasant scene.
Olive is a realist, and when she was taken to task by the school Principal, for throwing a pencil in the class and putting his best teacher in danger, she wanted to explain to him why Mrs Barton was not an excellent teacher. When their project for school was to work out how much water their family used in a week, she wanted to know how she could measure that amount of water. She was told to estimate, but the very idea made Olive uncomfortable. Soon her family moved to the farm belonging to her Uncles. Here she could ask questions of her Aunts, and discover why thing were strange in their family.
Thistle, who is the most unconventional of all the sisters, is the one to be honest with Olive, but she refuses to discuss the fact that there was a baby sister in the girl’s family. Here is a mystery that needs answers, and the young girl is relentless in her curiosity. Her total absence of fear, and full on approach to life, in this queer and dysfunctional family, is poignant.
The language used in the story is minimal in some areas, and the reader has to be fully engaged to take in the impact of the meaning. It is a story that is both tender and tragic, and about secrets in families.
|Publisher||Allen and Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|