Around The World In Books – 1. Australia

Summer is the perfect time for a holiday but don’t fret if you haven’t the means to escape to blue skies and golden sands, your imagination can take you just as far as any plane or boat.  One of  the things I love about reading is that you can travel all over the world, without ever having to pack a suitcase and you will never be disappointed with where you end up.  Every town, city, country and continent has a story to tell, a good book can pick you up and place you right in the middle of another place or time.  I have been everywhere with my books, from Germany to China, Japan and beyond.  Most recently, I visited the Australian Outback with Lucy Christopher.

Outback Australia

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

“You saw me, before I saw you”

Sounds intriguing, right?   From the opening line of this stunning, gritty, emotionally gripping novel, I was hooked.

Gemma is 16 when she is kidnapped from Bangkok Airport and taken to the Australian Outback.  Her captor, Ty, has been planning this “trip” for years and when he finally takes his opportunity to snatch Gemma and spirit her away to the wilderness, it is in the hope that he can make her love him, as he loves her.  Written in the form of a letter from Gemma to Ty, this wholly absorbing novel reflects on the months they have spent together under the glare of the brutal, unforgiving Australian sun as Gemma struggles against her stubborn, hot tempered but strangely alluring, captor.

Whilst this novel is marketed as the YA (Young Adult) genre, Gemma is not your stereotypical angst-ridden, whiny, teenage protagonist.  She is strong willed, determined and, even after numerous futile attempts at escape, she never stops trying to survive. Given that the book is written in the form of a letter from Gemma to Ty, you really get to know and understand this character and experience every one of her emotions with her.  I experienced her anger, her panic and her anxiety.  The fear is palpable.  Gemma is quite possibly one of the only literary characters I have felt complete and utter empathy for.  It is her powerful, compelling narrative which pulls you into the story and renders you completely incapable of letting go.

Essentially, Stolen is an investigation into the psychological phenomena that is Stockholm Syndrome.  Lucy Christopher writes in such a way that you as the reader begin to experience symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome yourself.  I found myself sympathising with Ty, trying to understand him and even feeling sorry for him.  Ty is a complex character, a master of emotional manipulation he is damaged having been forcibly removed from his family as a child, and has decided to go back to basics and live off the land according to the teachings of the Aboriginals who helped to raise him.  Ty is a fascinating character, he is not intrinsically evil but without a doubt he is a troubled soul trying to find a place in life where he belongs.  The desert is his “safe place”, a place where he feels at one with the world around him.  Ty is a man on the outside, but on the inside he is a child, lost and lonely in the vast expanse of the desert, and life.

“You told me once of the plants that lie dormant through the drought, that wait, half-dead, deep in the earth. The plants that wait for the rain. You said they’d wait for years, if they had to; that they’d almost kill themselves before they grew again. But as soon as those first drops of water fall, those plants begin to stretch and spread their roots. They travel up through the soil and sand to reach the surface. There’s a chance for them again.” 

Lucy Christopher’s narrative is so descriptive and real, the wild and desolate landscape of The Outback it is almost a character within itself.  So vividly is it described, I could almost feel the unforgiving, intrusive heat of the sun beating down upon me.  The plants are alive, real and breathing underneath Ty and Gemma’s feet.  This is not a book which is filled with edge of your seat action and suspense but for me, the emotional intensity was enough to keep me hooked until the very last page.

The question Lucy Christopher wanted her readers to be asking is did Gemma have Stockholm Syndrome or where her feelings for Ty real?  Did we as the reader, experience symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome or are we seeing the character for how he really is?  Well, you will have to read and decide for yourself.

“Lets face it, you did steal me. But you saved my life too. And somewhere in the middle, you showed me a place so different and beautiful, I can never get it out of my mind. And I can’t get you out of there either. You’re stuck in my brain like my own blood vessels.”