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Review of Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

by Rose Brock

Marchetta, Melina. 2004. SAVING FRANCESCA. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375929827

Attempting to find her way and a make a place for herself, Marchetta's poignant coming-of-age story tells the tale of Francesca, a teen struggling to come to terms with the many changes in her life. After being forced by her mother to attend a new school, the formerly all-boys institution, Saint Sebastian's, Francesca believes that her life can't get any worse. Obviously, it can and does. Relieved one day that she has not been awakened by the stereo, blasting her mother's chosen inspirational songs and wake-up calls (such as Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive), she quickly realizes something is amiss. Her outspoken mother, typically consumed with trying to empower her teen daughter, can't seem to get out of bed, and no one understands why. As days pass and realization of the severity of her mother’s depression slowly sinks in, she remarks, "God's not listening. It's been six days. The door is still closed." Trying to come to terms with the severity of her mother's illness, as she helplessly watches her family crumble, Francesca learns that she must save herself before she can help those she loves most.

One of the greatest strengths of SAVING FRANCESCA is Marchetta's ability to create characters which are fully realized. Told in first person, Francesca is a winner narrator, and despite her problems, she offers her story with candor and humor. The secondary characters are also effectively painted so they are not merely diversions from the story; their growth is recognizable and important. From her father's unwillingness to accept his wife's illness and the breakdown of his family to the self-destructive behavior of her friend, Siobhan, those who surround Francesca are also on an honest journey of self-discovery. In addition, witty dialogue, with an Australian flavor, adds additional spice to the story, allowing this international tale to have universal appeal.


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