REVIEWED BY CÉITÍ, 11, WA
Goldfields Girl by Elaine Forrestal, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925816495
The publisher provided a review copy of this book.
When I first moved to Australia, I lived on a street called Coolgardie Avenue. This was my first introduction to the name Coolgardie, which I learnt was a name of an early goldmining town in Western Australia. This book teaches us about Clara Saunders’ experience in the mining town of Coolgardie. Based on the true story of her life, the book tells us of the history and the happenings in the 1890s in the goldrush era.
Clara and her family come from Queensland to Perth to start a new life in WA’s goldfields to strike it rich and find gold. Clara gets offered a job in a local bar in Coolgardie. She accepts as she is always open to a new adventure and soon realises what the life-style of Coolgardie is like. She learns that water is scarce, living conditions are poor, so diseases spread easily, and it is a new town so there are not many people living there. Her friend Jack, who she meets in Southern Cross, delivers water to Coolgardie regularly. Clara does not have much female company except for Mrs Fagan, who is her boss in the pub, and later on Florrie from England, who comes to work in the pub with Clara. Clara enjoys living there but finds it tough at times.
Goldfields Girl gives an insight into the early goldrush days in Coolgardie. Clara sees many cases of typhoid, dehydration and other illnesses. She becomes a nurse of sorts and is called out to give medical assistance in many cases. Before she leaves Southern Cross her mother gives Clara her special book, Encyclopaedia of Common Diseases and Remedies. She uses this book to help treat her patients as there are no other doctors or nurses around the area. Clara meets Moondyne Joe, a well-known West Australian bushranger, in Southern Cross and again in Coolgardie. Clara listens to Moondyne Joe telling stories of his famous escapes and adventures.
This book would be a great read for 9-14 year olds interested in historical fiction. What stood out for me was that Clara was only fourteen when she left her family and went to Coolgardie all alone. In today’s world that would never happen. I think Clara Saunders was very brave and courageous.