To the Edge of the Ocean
by Rosemary Hayes
Published by Hodder
169 pages, 2004
Buy it online
The Edge Stands Alone
Reviewed by Sue Bursztynski
To the Edge of the Ocean is the second book in a series. I haven't read the first, but it doesn't matter because the first was set in a previous generation and the main storyline more or less stands alone.
The novel takes place between modern Bedford in England and 19th century Australia, during the gold rush era. It is implied that the modern characters are descendants of some of those in the Victorian-era storyline, through some family heirlooms, but otherwise there seems to be little connection between the two stories, not even parallel themes.
The tale begins in Victorian London. Amos Harris, a young boy working in his uncle's harness business, is restless. He hates the work, he hates having to grovel to the upper class customers and he longs to travel. He also wants to know the truth about his father, who had a dark secret and supposedly drowned at sea, but nobody in his family is talking.
Learning his father's secret -- that he was convicted and sent to Australia, although he had returned for a time and then set off on his fatal journey -- Amos sets off for Australia himself, sure that his father isn't dead. He's right, but finds that his father has a new, honorable life and a second family. However, he is made welcome and soon comes to like Australia, where even the "nobs" haven't been born with silver spoons in their mouths. Unfortunately, not everyone is happy to have him there and Amos has a dark secret of his own which he has been hiding from his new family.
In modern Britain, teenager Becky is trying to help her older brother, who has had to go into hiding after being tricked and threatened by their mother's ex-boyfriend, a loan shark. She helps him, but the boyfriend manages to wreak revenge on their mother...
The Edge of the Ocean is easy reading -- I finished it in an afternoon -- and might appeal to young fans of historical fiction. As a Melbournian, I wondered about the location of the hotel Amos's father builds; it seems to be on or near the site of Young and Jackson's Hotel, a Melbourne landmark.
My main problem with the book is that, while it starts off stand-alone, it ends abruptly, both in the modern story and in the 19th century tale. Nothing is resolved in either storyline and I have the feeling that the next volume will pick up five minutes after this one. Perhaps the publishers wanted it out quickly; it is reminiscent of the case of Douglas Adams having the manuscript of Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy whipped away from him unfinished, to meet a deadline. Whatever the reason, I would have enjoyed it more if the story had been properly concluded.
There is also the large amount of story crammed into a short novel; six years go by in the books' 169 pages. Amos' journey to the colonies and his search for his father all happens off stage. He leaves his home in Britain, with a letter to his family, then the story takes up some time later, with his arrival in the gold rush town in Victoria where his father is now running a hotel. It would have worked better, also, if the story had been told entirely from Amos's viewpoint. If the modern story had been left for a later volume, there would have been more room in this one both for story and character development. No doubt there was a reason for having two storylines, but I missed it, unfortunately.
Up to you. | March 2004
Sue Bursztynski is a children's and fantasy writer and librarian based in Australia.