“I see the treehouse-builder, the hill-occupier, the collector of small things. It’s a girl. She stares at me with eyes of fire. She’s small with a bundle of hair as black as ink, khaki overalls and bare feet. She’s got a wild look, and she narrows her eyes at me as if she wants to kill me. But then she gives a tiny dismissive jerk of her head and ducks out the tree branches”
Marsh and Me is the eleventh book by Australian author, Martine Murray. Joey is taking the dog for a walk in his favourite place: “The hill brings out the conqueror in me, Joey M. Green. Once I get on the hill, I stride up it, lofty as a cloud, my head stuffed with dreams. My faithful offsider, Black Betty, is always close by, snout to the ground, tail aloft and swashbuckling”. But he finds it occupied. Someone has built a treehouse in the peppercorn tree, an assembly of junk, and Joey is apparently not welcome.
But Joey is determined, and next visit, finds the construction unoccupied, and discovers within a collection of objects: “The tiny things are just normal, everyday things – a thimble, a button, a pencil-sharpener, an acorn, a coin, a bulldog clip, a washer, a stone, an elastic band, a bobby pin, a plug. They look as if they are in the middle of a game. There is a tooth, and next to it, as if in conversation with it, is an acorn. Fanning out around a belt buckle are a periwinkle shell, a bottle lid and a silver button, as if they were children listening to the belt buckle. Directly in front of the sharpener is a dice, as if they are in some sort of confrontation. A duel”
Eventually he meets the secretive builder, they call a truce and, when she does not offer her name, he christens her Marsh. His visits become frequent and Joey is surprised to find himself keeping them secret, and telling lies to family and friends.
Once again, Murray gives her readers a charming tale, one that touches on guilt and grief and secrets, and demonstrates the importance of friendship and feeling needed. Joey is a likeable character whose inner monologue provides plenty of humour. In particular, Joey’s wondering about the first man to set foot on the moon results in a delightful little scenario.
Murray’s descriptive prose is often gorgeous, and readers of her most recent book will be pleased to know this one occurs in the same place: Molly and Maude get a mention; Pim makes an appearance. While this book is aimed at younger readers, it is likely to beguile readers of any age. Very enjoyable.