Black Water is the story of Farren Fox, a boy who lives on the Southern Victorian coast in a fishing community called Queenscliff. The novel is set during World War I, and as in Metzenthen’s previous book “Boys of blood and bone”, the savage effects of war on the lives of those both fighting and waiting at home are seen vividly.
Farren has lost his mother two years ago and his brother Danny is at Gallipoli “giving the Turks a belting”. Farren and his father, Tom, head out each day to risk their lives in the often treacherous waters near the fishing village to earn their livelihood. Before long, tragedy strikes in Farrens’s life again, as his father is killed in a fishing accident. The reader begins to wonder how much more Farren’s life can take, as next, his brother Danny comes home from Gallipoli damaged in mind and body. This book begins to live up to its title “Black Water”.
However, not all is hopeless. The town’s people rally round to help the brothers in subtle ways. Kindnesses are offered in unexpected places. The boys develop resilience and a positive attitude to their bleak situation. Excitement is provided when they take on Souki, a feral child who is a survivor of a shipwreck. Humour and resourcefulness come to the fore as the boys provide for themselves with fishing and rabbit hunting and take time to search for a fabled buried treasure in the sandhills.
This novel has a superb feeling for place. The ocean in all its moods is ever present and the village is an authentic picture of a community in World War I Australia. You end this novel with a strong feeling of hope and the knowledge that Farren and Danny will be survivors.