Title: Saving Francesca
Author: Melina Marchetta
Source: Purchased (Audiobook)
Length: 6 hours 15 minutes (Unabridged)
Narrated by: Rebecca Macauley
Published by: Bolinda Publishing
Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastians, a boys’ school that’s pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas who specializes in musical burping to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about.
Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling as to who she really is. Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.
I had first been introduced to Melina Marchetta’s work with her story Jellicoe Road. I had listened to that one on audio and really enjoyed the narrator. When I saw that people really were loving Saving Francesca — and that it was narrated by the same narrator as Jellicoe Road, I knew I had to give it a listen. I also was really intrigued by the fact that the main character pretty much goes to an all-boys school — despite the fact that she’s a girl.
For the first part of this story, I felt slightly detatched. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the main character, who seemed to resemble the main character in Jellicoe Road a little too much, but by the time I got about halfway through I really started paying attention. The story completely grabbed me and I felt so much for Francesca and what she was going through. I couldn’t imagine having a mother going through depression like her mother was and having to go through that AND maintain an image at school. Not only that, but Francesca had her little brother who knew less of what was going on than she did and it was great to see them both come together in the story in a beautiful display of sibling love.
Really, it’s very much a coming of age story, with Francesca almost forced to live this part of her life without her mother. She’s trying to find herself and make sense of the fact that she’s at an all-boys school where the boys are crude and the girls don’t seem to matter, but it’s even harder because her mother is sick and her father doesn’t want to talk about anything. I liked how strong Francesca’s character got as the story progressed. Her character really grew and it was nice to see her trying to make progress at school, helping the girls make a bit of a stand.
I’m sure that I’ll continue to try out Marchetta’s work — while her books aren’t in my favourites, they are really good and well worth a read. Or a listen, especially since Rebecca Macauley is a wonderful narrator. What’s also great is that this audiobook is only about 6 hours long — perfect to listen to during the week, even if the subject matter is heartbreaking.
Heartbreaking or not, this is a story that’s filled with hope, friendship, and family, and definitely one I was happy to have gotten the chance to listen to.