The Rebels of Mount Buffalo by Helen Edwards is an absorbing Australian historical fiction, time slip novel for upper primary readers. In this story, Clara is trying to navigate a new, unfamiliar world since the passing of her adored twin brother Darius. She carries emotions that are often associated with grief, anger, guilt and an overwhelming sense of loss. Slipping back in time, Clara meets a young girl who guides her on a journey of self-discovery, growth and one where she discovers that courage has always been within her. It is when Clara faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles, dangerous challenges and numerous setbacks, that she pushes beyond her limiting beliefs and proves to herself that courage has always been a part of her. She then begins a journey of acceptance and healing. The time-slip technique is such a creative and accessible way for readers to be immersed in Australia’s past and vicariously experience Australian history, way of life, struggles, a depression that plagued Australia and opportunities that presented at the time. By using modern day characters and in this case, a young girl; it is her voice, perspectives and essentially lens which is explored to view and understand the past and true history of Mount Buffalo. 

The year is 1998 and Clara’s family embark on a getaway to Mount Buffalo, a place they have visited before, a setting that holds and triggers treasured memories and a location that in the past has sparked great joy. But this time, Darius’ absence will be something that Clara, her Mum and Dad will struggle with and feel in their own unique ways. This time there are several events planned while they stay at the Mount Buffalo chalet to celebrate the centenary.

Clara is intrigued by the displays created for the celebration and engages with the artefacts that bring the history of Mount Buffalo to life. It is when Clara explores a camera from the past that she is transported back in time to Mount Buffalo in 1893.

Clara soon learns that the girl she meets is none other than Guide Alice, a real-life historical figure who is considered a rebel of her time for her non-conformist and adventurous ways for a woman of this time. Guide Alice was a trail blazer who created and wore the first ‘trouser suit’ for women. She was a skilled horse rider who led tourists on treks up Mount Buffalo. Her affinity with the mountain meant she embraced any opportunity to explore it, soak up its many gifts of wildflowers, caves, wildlife and spectacular views as she deeply connected with the mountain and inspired others to do so too.

Clara stays with Alice’s family, the Manfield’s, who built a guesthouse for travellers wanting to trek the mountain. The depression meant jobs were scarce and people were struggling with immense financial hardship. These desperate times led some people to underhanded behaviours. While on the mountain Guide Alice and Clara become caught up in a perilous situation with Guide Alice captured and two men badly hurt on the mountain. Clara’s spirit, modern day knowledge of first aid practices and ability to act despite fear, allows her courage and spirit to shine.

Helen Edwards masterfully paints such a vivid picture of the lush, rugged Australian landscape and society in the 1890s, which allows readers to immerse themselves in the way people lived, the sights, sounds and smells. Factual information is seamlessly woven into the story to set the imagination alight with another time. This is a must have book for every library collection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *