A powerful story suitable for young and old.
Greasing the Wingnut is a story of resilience while growing up as an immigrant in Port Augusta, South Australia in 1969. Billy Chapman is 15 years old. His father died when he was 8, not long after they had moved to Australia from England, leaving him, his mother and his younger sister Lindy to fend for themselves.
Life in 1969 was hard and with the welfare department threatening to take Billy and his sister away from their mother, he needs to find ways to help the family survive. Billy works part time at the local chicken farm as well as trying to pass his subjects at school. All he has ever wanted was to live up to the expectations of his father who was a bully and a drunk.
Dimity Knight is an Adelaide author, and this is her second novel. As well as her own well researched information, she has used anecdotes from her husband’s early life when he grew up in Port Augusta.
Knight has given us well-rounded, interesting characters and I felt invested in the well being of Billy. He is thoughtful and kind in an environment where bullies rule and the social norms are very different from today. It is the story of his coming of age.
It is also a story of hope. Shining through the book are those people he meets along the way who are good and kind; people who help others and try to do what is right.
Knight also touches on topics like domestic violence, the stolen generation, respect for others, and the issues faced by immigrants new to our country.
Greasing the Wingnut is not just for older teens. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting my childhood through the eyes of Billy, and as a baby boomer I think it would be a worthwhile book for older readers as well, as it brought back many memories from my childhood. We grew up in a different time. Women were treated differently, bullying was rife and single mothers had a hard time looking after their families. People had little time for those people who were “different.”
This book has powerful themes and rings true in every sense. It is well written, with just enough descriptive phrases to allow us to imagine the scenes but without overdoing them. It is easy to imagine Port Augusta in 1969: the water tower, the industry, the local characters and the dust.
This one was hard to put down.
Reviewed by Sue Mauger
Distributed by: Elephant House Press
Released: October 2019