Review: The Van Apfel Girls are Gone

Back in 1992, in a middle class suburb just outside Sydney, life is about to change forever for the narrator Tikka, her sister and their friends the three Van Apfel girls. As the title tells us: by the end of the summer the Van Apfel girls are Gone.

Where have they gone? Why? Will they come back? All questions worthy of a crime thriller but this novel is more than a whodunnit. It has more than enough to keep a crime fiction fan turning the pages, wondering if you’ve picked up the right clues, but there’s more.

McLean treats us to a vividly executed portrait of small town Australia. Tikka cleverly requires us to change our perspective again and again as more of the story is revealed. We can see, even if twelve year old Tikka can’t, that she doesn’t know her friends, her family or her community as well as she thinks she does. It’s only when adult Tikka comes back to her parents house to support her sister that she can begin to understand what was going on.

The layers of silence; the knowing/not-knowing/not-wanting-to-know that sit at the heart of any small community are handled beautifully here. The Van Apfel Girls are Gone raises questions to ponder.

It is a book I will keep; read again; ponder some more.

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