From award-winning author Kirsty Murray comes an exciting new novel based on the fascinating true story of a group of young Australian performers who toured Asia and India at the turn of the century before staging a strike and refusing to travel any further.
Daisy opened her mouth and lies flew out. Her face so pink and white, her lips so plump and sweet, her lies so vile. I had to cover my ears.
I shut my eyes, wanting to block out the courtroom, to neither see nor hear the evil: but Tilly grabbed my arm and twisted the skin on my wrist in a Chinese burn.
'Poesy Swift,' she whispered, her breath hot against my neck, 'open your eyes, and take that look off your face. We will never get home if you ruin everything.'
Madras 1910: Poesy and Tilly are caught up in a scandal that will change their lives forever. Singing and dancing across a hundred stages as members of the troupe of Australia child performers, they travel by steam train into the heart of India. But as one disaster follows another, money runs short and tempers fray. What must the girls do to protect themselves, and how many lives will be ruined if they try and break free?
India Dark is a story of things kept secret, of conflicting wills and desires, set against the heat and dust of a lost Empire.
Kirsty Murray is the author of many novels including The Secret Life of Maeve Lee Kwong, Zarconi's Magic Flying Fish (winner of the WA Premier's Children's Book Award, 2001), Market Blues and Walking Home with Marie Claire. She has also written the Children of the Wind series in addition to several non-fiction books for children. She has worked as a forest ranger, archivist, artist and teacher, and now is a full-time writer.
Allen and Unwin
Author: Kirsty Murray
Interview with Kirsty Murray
Question: What inspired you to write Kirsty Murray?
Kirsty Murray: When I first stumbled across the story, I couldn't believe that I'd never heard of Pollard's Lilliputian Opera Company. They were a famous troupe of child performers that toured the world from the 1880s through to 1910 but their last tour ended in such a huge scandal that no one wanted to talk about it and their story slipped into a crack in history. There were twenty-nine children in the initial group that set out from Melbourne in July 1909 and most of them were teenage girls. They were skilled professionals who sang and danced for huge audiences around the world. I've always been intrigued by stories of Australian theatre and the thousands of kids who've made a living working in the performing arts. I turned the story of the Pollard's last tour into a novel because it meant I could really get inside the hearts and minds of the girls who lived through that amazing adventure.
Question: Why did you think it was important to tell this story?
Kirsty Murray: Girls' stories fall into the shadows of history way too often and I think it's important to bring them out into the light. History tends to focus on powerful men and political movements. But there are many gripping, true stories about children and young people that never get properly documented because no one bothers to record the details. There is so much fascinating real life adventure and depth in the stories of ordinary people who are swept up in extraordinary events that I've always loved researching and writing about them. Women and children make history too and the young members of the Pollards troupe witnessed incredible times and took charge of their own lives in a powerful way.
Question: What research went into the novel?
Kirsty Murray: Years and years of research went into 'India Dark'. Apart from spending four months in India and visiting most of the places that the troupe visited, I also spent months in the State Library of Victoria on a Creative Fellowship, tracking the stories of child performers of the Edwardian era.
Question: Finish this sentence: The best thing about books is
Kirsty Murray: simply everything. Everything about books is delectable. I love the smell of them and the weight of them in my hands. I love disappearing into a good story, I love the places books take me and the people I meet inside the pages of a good novel. I can't imagine life without them.