The 10pm Question

The 10pm Question

Kate de Goldi

“Frankie liked very much to remember that February the fourteenth had begun badly and shown every sign of becoming a real horror, but – as the benefit of hindsight proved – it marked, ultimately, a turning point in his mood and fortune, because at 8.36 a.m. the new girl boarded Cassino’s East-West school bus”

Frankie Parsons is a 12-year-old boy who plays cricket, draws birds, and worries. He worries about groceries, and smoke alarms, and getting sick. More than that, he worries about his mother, Francie. Francie hasn’t left the house in nine years because all the worries in her head make the world unbearable. And when Frankie isn’t worrying about his mother, he worries about becoming her.

Then he meets Sydney, and his life is turned upside-down. Sydney doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything, and has no patience for Frankie’s reluctance to talk about his family, or for his clear and safe routines. Sydney forces Frankie to answer the hard questions that have always niggled in the back of his mind, and together they uncover all the things about their homes that they would prefer to hide away.

This relatively short and easy-to-read novel looks at the life of the average Kiwi kid and asks what lies behind it. Why does he not want to go to camp? Why does her family move around so much? De Goldi uses the total honesty of a child’s perspective to expose the secret instabilities everyone harbours, the desire to hide a problem away in hopes that everything will just go back to “normal”. At the very least it will expand your vocabulary, as de Goldi makes a point of showing that there is a word for every problem and it is thus neither abnormal nor shameful to experience them. The relevance of this message and the effectiveness of the way in which it is delivered are supported by an NZ Post Book of the Year award, a Readers’ Choice award and a number of prize shortlistings, assuring that this is a worthwhile read.

This book is not a life-changer, but the end of the novel gives that deliciously satisfying feeling of emptiness that all good books should incite; the internal heaving of a sigh that closes a door on a set of very alive characters and asks: Where do I go from here? If you’re looking to fill in a rainy Saturday or just need to calm the heck down, this book is a good escape and easily recommendable to anyone.

Natasha Loveday
This article first appeared in Issue 5, 2012.
Posted 4:26pm Sunday 25th March 2012 by Natasha Loveday.