The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French

Book cover for The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French

The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French (HarperCollins Publishers)

Judges' Comments

Seventeen-year-old drifter Jed Kelly arrives at Drinkwater Station with a claim that no one truly believes. Nevertheless, she is welcomed into a local family by its elderly patriarch and put to work caring for children with disabilities, a role in which she thrives. Although she has much to prove and many obstacles to overcome, for the first time in her life she begins to feel like she belongs.

Set in rural Australia in the tumultuous years of the late 1960s, The Ghost by the Billabong considers the issues that gripped the nation, including Australia’s presence in Vietnam and its tragic consequences, as well as the moon landing and the hope it bought to the world in the midst of the Cold War. Through a cast of engaging characters and with thorough research, French turns fact into fiction, bringing a light touch and an emotional depth to the tale. The fifth novel in the Matilda Saga, The Ghost by the Billabong speaks to the other novels in the series through the ghosts that Jed sees. This intriguing device captures the past and the future of the series without detracting from the gripping central storyline.