6 March 2015

Review #156: Volcano Street by David Rain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"A sister is both your mirror - and your opposite" 

----Elizabeth Fishel, a journalist and author

David rain, the Australian author, have spun an enthralling tale about sisterly love, childhood, Australian adventure, haunting ghosts across a pond and theater acts set across an Aussie town called, Crater Lakes in the 1970s, in his new book, Volcano Street .


In the tradition of great Australian literature Volcano Street is a wonderfully vivid portrayal of small-town life and the uncertainties of childhood.

'What would Germaine do?'

This is the mantra that Skip and Marlo Wells turn to as they navigate their way through the twists and turns that life brings. Such as the sectioning of their mother Karen Jane.

Marlo puts her faith in her hero, Germaine Greer, and twelve-year-old Skip trusts her clever big sister to know the right thing to do. But when the sisters are forced to move to their Auntie Noreen and Uncle Doug's home in the backwater city of Crater Lakes even Marlo can't think of a solution.

At age sixteen, Marlo is forced to quit school and work in the family hardware store. Skip manages to get on her auntie's bad side from the get-go and is an outcast at school as she vehemently declares the injustice of the Vietnam War - not what Noreen wants to hear with her precious son Barry off fighting.

Against the backdrop of a broken home, the fight for equality and a far off war Volcano Street is a heartfelt tale of acceptance and belonging, and learning what family truly means.

This is David's second book and it's equally powerful like his debut book, but one thing I noticed in this book, which was apparently missing in his first book, The Heat of the Sun is emotions, which are portrayed with depth and compassion and their chords are so strong that reading about them will instantly play you with it's rhythm.

Skip and Marlo are two sisters sipped off to the Crater lakes in Australia at their Aunt's residence after their mother being admitted to the mental asylum, Skip is the youngest, a completely tomboy, wild, vulnerable, strong, ready to face anything, Skip is a girl, yet her demeanor is that of a boy, whereas her elder sister Marlo is calm, composed, sad and is the one desperate to get away from their new establishment with a college admission. But little did they knew that their new home would be harder for them to not only adjust but also to contemplate with the harsh Australian lifestyle. Upon their arrival to their aunt's home at Crater Lakes in South Australia, Marlo and Skip had to follow their aunt's orders even if it includes that Marlo have to quit school and work in their family hardware shop to sustain them. Marlo meets Pavlo Novak, a young man working at the hard ware store and soon their friendship blossoms into something promising. Skip becomes friends with the thug boy and Pavlo's younger brother Honza, but Skip's friendship with Honza makes him leave his pack of other thug boys who loved to bully other kids in the school. Soon these two girls are drawn into the compelling past scandal of their town through their local theater group, which unravels a lot of secrets about certain prejudices and narrow mindedness of this town.

Rain have described the childhood fictional town, Crater Lakes brilliantly, a typical Australian town where there is not much to do for youngsters like Skip or Marlo. The moment they step into this town, they make a vow that they would get out of this miserable town through studies and college admission. But this town held some intriguing mysteries which finally made them realize the importance and value of this dead end town. From the heat to the dusty streets to the old linguistic tone, to the local delicacies to almost everything, the whole picture of the town that Rain painted is vividly Australian and with this novel, you are bound to transport yourself to the 70s period in an old Australian town. If you have never been to Australia then this is the perfect book for you.

Rain embodied himself into his 12-year old primary character, Skip and brought out her spirit and voice so distinctly. Skip is naughty and tremendously wild, and would do anything to protect her elder sister, Marlo, but her flaws and her tomboyish nature are what makes us root for her character. The scenes unfolded in Skip's school with bullying and the fights are strikingly portrayed by the author.

In the beginning of the novel, it's hard to decide what the author is trying to portray with his novel whether the miserable situation of the two sisters or whether the history of a scandalous past about a man who haunts Crater Lakes as a ghost. In the first part, it's all about Skip and she is the best thing in the whole novel and from her POV, we get to see the larger picture about the Wells' sisters past, their mother being sectioned, dealing with bullied at school backyard, her wild adventures with Honza. Next half, the novel shifts from Skip's POV to general POV about a secret of the town. Except Skip, I don't think so there are any other characters, that I could connect with like the tacky bus driver, Sandy Campbell and his racist and sexist remarks, Aunt Noreen with her obesity and TV series addiction, Pavlo Novak, a young accountant at the hard ware store and his constant admiration for Marlo. Well the characters that Rain created are visual and striking enough to get an idea about them quite easily while on the other hand, due to lack of depth, we couldn't feel them in the story, they felt more like some passing characters in this novel. The narrative is captivating, yet not that alluring to hook us till the very end.

Overall, it's a realistic novel with a bit of surreal drama, which is heart-touching and intriguing and it's mainly because of the 12-year old girl, Skip, who will grip us from the very first page.

Verdict: David Rain's Volcano Street is one of the best Australian novel, that unravels a story of mystery, love, restitution, and full of wild childish adventures.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, David Rain, for giving me an opportunity to read and review his book. 

Author Info:
David Rain is an Australian writer who lives in London. He is the author of the novels Volcano Street and The Heat of the Sun. He has written poetry, articles, and reviews. He has taught literature and writing at Queen’s University of Belfast, University of Brighton, and Middlesex University, London.
Visit him here

Book Purchase Links:


  1. As always, a lovely and detailed review Aditi! I like the idea of the emotions being so in depth here, and I know that's what I am always looking for in a book. As well as that I love to read about sisters because I have my own. The connection between sisters and siblings is always so special.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment! Aww, you're so lucky to have a sister, I always wanted to have a sister, sisters are the best friends whom you can cherish forever.


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