Monday, 6 March 2017

All in the Blue Unclouded Weather, Dresses of Red and Gold, and The Sky in Silver Lake by Robin Klein



All in the Blue Unclouded Weather (The Melling sisters #1), Dresses of Red and Gold (The Melling sisters #2), and The Sky in Silver Lake (The Melling sisters #3) by Robin Klein
Published Feb 27, 2017 by Text Publishing (first published in 1991, 1992, 1995)
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars


From the blurb: All in the Blue Unclouded Weather begins the story of the Melling sisters, four girls growing up in an Australian country town in the post war years. Vivienne is the youngest, always the last to wear the hand-me-down clothes—after Grace and Heather and Cathy—and always longing for something new and special. But although life is hard for the Melling family and the sisters have their tiffs, this is a heartwarming and often humorous story of loyalty and affection—under blue unclouded skies.
In Dresses of Red and Gold, the Melling sisters and their mother are preparing for a wedding. Cathy is to be bridesmaid and her dress is a thing of awe and beauty, but not in Cathy’s eyes—she hates the idea of being a bridesmaid. Vivienne would love to wear it, and perhaps she will.
In The Sky in Silver Lace, The Melling family has moved from Wilgawa to the city suburb of Lacey’s Bay. There’s a new school, a new place to live and new friends to make—this is exciting, but also terrifying, especially when the first potential friend Vivienne meets is large, bold and threatening.

Robin Klein is a name I know well, I'm sure a lot of Australian readers would too. In school we read Hating Alison Ashley, and I think we also put on a play of it as well. But I don't think I ever read the Melling sisters series. When I saw Text Publishing were re-releasing them with gorgeous new covers, I jumped at the chance to finally read these well-loved Australian classics.

All in the Blue Unclouded Weather is the first in the three book series about the Melling sisters: Grace, Heather, Cathy, and Viviene. They live in a small rural town called Wilgawa. Their dad is often away prospecting. When he is home, he's an embarrassment to them because of his homemade inventions and repetitive, fanciful stories. Their mother writes for the local paper and is often forgetful and confused. They're regularly visited by their cousin, Isobel Dion.

The book is made up of several stories, each one focused on a different character or event, and Klein's writing allows the reader to get to know the girls immediately. From the beginning I fell in love with the Melling sisters, and their loud, chaotic life. Their constant bickering, gossiping, and antics were so entertaining. My favourite would have to be Viviene and she also seemed to be the most well-developed character. She's the youngest and is so fed up of being poor. She hates that she gets clothes that have been worn by her three older sisters. She hates that she never gets brand new shoes. She hates that Majorie Powell won't invite her over to her beautiful house. I adored Viv's indignation as well as her imagination and love of the written word. She often quotes literature or poetry to herself and this endeared her to me even more.

Not only do we get to know the Melling sisters, but we're introduced to other residents of Wilgawa. Majorie Powell is a bully, she never invites people over and she terrorises the Gathin family. I felt for little Nancy Tuckett, harassed by her mother, and so bemused by the chaos of the Melling household. And dear cousin Isobel, so funny and fickle, not sure if she wants to be a Hollywood actress or a nun.

The second book in the series, Dresses of Red and Gold, still has a strong focus on Viv, but Klein also allows the reader to get to know Heather a little better via her story of community service. There's a strong emphasis on doing good in this book, an influence from their local church, but the girls often find it hard to be good because sometimes that means missing out or going without.
Another change in the second book is that Grace has left the family and moved to the city to study and work. The three girls that remain are even more aware now of the money troubles their family faces.

The third and final book in the series is The Sky in Silver Lace. The family, minus Mr Melling, have moved to the city, but they don't have a permanent place to stay. First they stay with family, where they are made to feel unwanted and in the way. Then Mrs Melling takes a live-in housekeeper job for a stern old Captain, and finally they move to a small apartment of their own.

Heather and Cathy attend a girls school where each of them navigates new friendships and tries to blend in as best they can with their second-hand uniforms. Viv is scared of the kids in the city, she's so lonely and would love to make new friends.

This was the saddest of the three books because I knew it was the last, and I noticed a sense of melancholy woven through the stories. It was hard to say farewell to the family, but I was left with a sense of hope. The girls have proven their strength and adaptability over the course of the series, and I could imagine they would make the best of their lives going forward.

All in the Blue Unclouded Weather, Dresses of Red and Gold, and The Sky in Silver Lake are such wonderful, honest, Australian stories, still relevant to readers today. The sisters are a delight to read about, their adventures are entertaining and touching. I hope a new generation of readers fall in love with this family as much as I did.

Thank you to Text Publishing for my copies.


Cover illustrations: Eisfrei and Sundra
Cover design: Imogen Stubbs
Series design: W.H. Chong 

Text Publishing consistently have some of the best book covers around, and these new additions to the Text Classics series are beautiful. I love the watercolour illustrations, the yellow gingham background, and the borders made up of different leaves. 

I decided to combine all three covers into one manicure. I began with a pale yellow base and painted on the yellow gingham print. Then I painted all the different items over the top.








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