Thursday, April 1, 2010


sugar sugar, carole wilkinson

carole wilkinson is so well-known (and well-loved) for her dragonkeeper series. well, there are no dragons in sugar sugar.

instead, it is the 1970s and here is jackie: an australian girl living in london, who wants to be a fashion designer, but who is slaving away as a shopgirl. so one weekend she packs her psychedelic suitcase, arms herself with her folio of precious designs and heads to paris. on the ferry from dover she meets the 'v's - two american girls driving a london cab to all the places in europe that start with v. jackie scores a lift into paris - gaahh! l'etoile! giant roundabout of death! - and the 'v's drop her off.

only for her to realise she has left her folio in the car.

what follows is an amazing retro roadtrip. there is a cast of fantastic characters (some more likable than others) which are all so well-written you could be sitting next to them in the car, trying to observe the hitchhiker's code with them, swapping books and trying to stay awake en route while listening to them play guitar in the back.

and it is after jackie falls asleep that things start to happen. after versailles, after vichy, and on the way to verona, jackie decides her folio is a lost thing and hitches a ride back to paris with a couple of dutch guys (dolf and thomas). she wakes up to a demand to see her passport. they are in yugoslavia, with a beautiful scandinavian girl called ulla.
jackie's journey moves through what is now the former yugoslavia, to greece, then turkey and then extends through the middle east. the 'v's reappear, as do the unsettling/endearing pair of british mates val and alun. jackie's journey is out of control, she thinks about getting back to london a lot, she dreams about australia but she carries onward into the deserts of iran and afghanistan.
even though she is scared and dirty and most of the time wants to go home, jackie also starts to enjoy the experiences. fascinating, these places that you can't get to so easily nowadays. wilkinson's descriptions of the scenery are simple but evocative and her depictions of the people jackie meets along the way are just wonderful (and horrible). the story is so well-paced, to the point of almost action-packed and i greedily read on and on until the end, all in one sitting.
jackie is an engaging character. sometimes she seemed a bit dim, but it was lovely to follow a character who doesn't know it all. and then there were the times that jackie did think she knew it all and then tripped up. she is a very human character for whom i came to care a great deal over the course of the novel.
i would love to have been able to travel at the time jackie was, but i have had to content myself with hearing about my parents' voyages overland (the photos included in this post belong to them) that they made in the late 70s/early 80s.


  1. Very good review (I do notice that I'm posting over a year after this was published :P ). However, I think that you might like to work on using capital letters more... ? Or perhaps that's just me.
    Still, I'm really enjoying your blog :)

  2. capitals schmapitals. have been using them a little more recently... thank you for your lovely comment. did you enjoy this book?


hey anonymousauruses - give yourselves a name. a nom de plume, a nom de blog. it's more fun that way.