The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean
PUBLISHED BY FOURTH ESTATE
REVIEW BY ALLY M
Set between today and the early 1990s, this story line follows the recollections of Tikka whose friends and neighbours disappeared after the school concert – never to be seen again.
The story twists around itself and the swampy river at the base of the valley, piecing together the story and building the feeling of guilt, confusion, and loss. Tikka, as clichéd as it sounds, grows significantly after the Van Apfel girls run away/disappear, but after 20 years she can’t let go of her last summer as a child.
Still looking for her friends on street corners, and chasing strangers down and confronting them, sure she’s seen ‘Cordie’. A trip home brings it all back to mind and she faces the story with adult eyes, recollecting her memories as an 11-year-old.
Tikka is the younger sister and left out of the important topics by the older girls, but still describes the constant tension that swarms around the Van Apfel’s zealot father, even if she doesn’t fully understand it. She clearly pinpoints events, which on later reflection become more sinister.
It paints 90s Australia in iceblocks, backyard pools and Cottees jingles, which feel real enough without being nostalgic. The plot line offers enough food for thought on what was really happening with the Van Apfel girls that another person’s recollections would intrude on the picture, but yet I couldn’t help wondering what else was going on. All this leads you wanting more and wishing for all the answers.
An easy, fast and engaging read. Recommended.
Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.