... takes an uncompromising look at a time when the White Australia Policy governed the country and among the various acts under it, was the denial of citizenship to Aboriginal people citizenship, instead placing them under the legal guardianship of a local Protector. For this reason alone, the book is important ... Despite it being set amid a terrible and shameful part of history, this is an uplifting novel. It is about the fact that people are kind to others when there is no benefit to themselves. It is about the fact that the love of family is so powerful, so strong, that it can move mountains and defy corrupt systems. In the words of Birch’s daughter Siobhan, who officially launched the book, it is about the fact that at a time in history when people were given legal licence to do awful things to Aboriginal people, not everyone did. It is a book about the purity of love between kin, and the solidarity between people that makes life not merely survivable but ultimately, enjoyable ... Birch’s writing style is truly engaging. It immediately draws the reader in, presenting the elements of the story in a way that makes them deeply riveting from the first pages. Moreover, he writes with a deft touch ... I can only recommend that you go out and buy a copy of this book.
The factual and historical basis for this novel is firm ... Not enough has been written about quiet resilience and silent resistance as tools of survival, about survival of family and continuation of culture as a measure of success. Birch presents this beautifully, engaging his readers in a powerfully straightforward manner. His stripped-back language is a perfect expression of the silent stoicism of the characters. There is an intent in his plain-talking style, an intent to make Odette’s story accessible; to not obfuscate something so important. The terse lyricism of his language reminds me of an Elder teaching culture – of Aboriginal stories and storytelling ... The novel is approachable and fiercely readable, its linguistic and cultural power cloaked in deceptively simple language. Perhaps that is the power of The White Girl, the ability to make the experiences and decisions of the characters, so close to the bone already for Indigenous people, visceral and immediate for an outsider audience.
... captures the strength, character, and suffering of native peoples everywhere ... compelling and well-crafted ... Birch is writing about more than inhumane laws and the sadistic people who enforced them. He is also writing about the fundamental decency of both Black and white people, the ties of family that cannot be broken, the love of family, and the support friends across the color spectrum ... With well-developed characters and well-paced suspense that keep the pages turning, Birch’s story is told in simple but powerful prose ... This heartbreaking, beautiful story about fundamental human decency, and its absence, offers a reminder about what matters in life regardless of race, economic, or educational status, and oppression, real or threatened. Through the lives of strong women, and the men who care about them, readers will find a story of courage, connection, dedication, and honor ... All of this is rendered in a carefully crafted work of fiction that makes good writing seem easy. But writers like Tony Birch, whose work derives from a reality with which the author is deeply familiar, know how difficult it is to tell the stories of their people. We have reason to be grateful that they do.