SAVING FRANCESCA Melina Marchetta, Pengin, 2006, 242 pages, paperback, NZ$22. ISBN 0-14-300097-7
There are too few funny books about life as a teenager, but Saving Francesca is a witty and gripping account of the relationship between Francesca Spinelli and her controlling mother, “a dynamo who does one thousand things successfully”.
Francesca is having major problems adjusting to life in St Sebastians, a Catholic boys’ school which has just accepted 30 girls. High-achieving females pose a threat to a male-dominated society. When her mother refuses to get out of bed, Francesca’s life gains a complexity she feels she doesn’t need.
The high point of this book comes when Francesca finds the ability to talk freely to her depressed mother. It is also a marvellous picture of teenage girls, their changing alliances and perceptions and their view of boys. Francesca’s conversations with her father are read-aloud funny.
First published in The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand on August 12th 2006.