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Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite
The Pencil Case by Lorraine Cobcroft tells the story of a young boy and his sister in Australia, who were forcibly removed from their family and ‘taken into care.’ The reason for this was the inadequate care given to the children whose parents were too poor to raise them properly. It later transpired that the father, a war hero who had been interned in a POW camp in the Far East, was never informed of his pension and disability rights. The children were placed in a home run by nuns, separated and subjected to a brutal regime including lack of food, frequent beatings, manual labour, and being forced to wash bed sheets in freezing water before breakfast. Paul is moved to a farm where conditions are much better, but he loses contact with his sister Jenny. When he turns 15, he is railroaded into joining the army, a career he hates. He marries and spends two years in Singapore before returning to Australia. When he becomes a civilian, he finds it impossible to adjust and settle as he tries one venture after another, failing each time.
Much has been written about the indignities meted out to the Aborigines by the Australian authorities, but this is the first book I’m aware of that relates the injustices done to white children. This a harrowing read, but I could not stop turning the pages. The book is so well written that I felt I was there with Paul and Jenny, suffering with them, feeling angry at how they were treated, and rooting for a happy conclusion. The writer takes you into Paul's mind as he struggles to adjust, contain his anger and frustration as he attempts to cope with the demons who rule his life and his behaviour. The Pencil Case by Lorraine Cobcroft is one of those books that will remain with you long after you have read the last page. A sad story beautifully told, and I wish I could award it ten stars.