Friday, May 10, 2013

Book Review - Obernewtyn

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody (Penguin, 1987)

Obernewtyn (ober-new-ton) was an interesting and different book.

It was not clich├ęd as most dystopian futures are, although it does have an apocalyptic setting.

I quote from the book:

Surrounded on one side by the sea and inland, bordered by jagged mountain ranges and great tracts of poisonous Blacklands, the people of the Land believed they alone had survived the Holocaust.

It is unclear what the Holocaust was but it was certainly the result of humankind’s pursuit of technology.

The dominant force in this futuristic end world is the Herder Faction, a group of the richest farmers and those who lived in the countryside before the Holocaust.

The book is written from the perspective of Elspeth Gordie. She is a Misfit, someone who is descended of the surviving generations of people from the cities, where the Holocaust started.  Some people from the city have mutated,  giving them superhuman mental abilities.

The Herder Faction burn those who have such abilities, send them to do manual labour or send them to Obernewtyn, a mental institute located high up in the mountains. When Elspeth is suspected of possessing these mental abilities she is sent to Obernewtyn.

Obernewtyn was an interesting and inventive book similar to books like Foundling by D. M. Cornish, in that it creates an entirely new world, invents new words and an entirely new history.

Obernewtyn is the first in a series of many and I am currently enjoying the second, The Farseekers, as much as the first.

Leo, 11, Canberra


  1. I've just read the Gathering by Isobelle Carmody for English in school, and found it very good.
    Are the Obernewton books good, compared to the Gathering?

  2. My favourite children's book that deals with themes of survival and identity in a futuristic post-apocalyptic setting is Garth Nix's 'Shade's Children.'

    After speaking with Nix at Adelaide's writer's week last year, he readily proclaimed it as his favourite book (of the ones he has written). I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Carmody or Cornish's work - I believe Nix's book is more cohesive and better written... though I did enjoy Carmody as much as the next person when I was about 11!