When the Ground Is Hard

Author(s): Malla Nunn

Young Adult

Edgar Award nominee stuns in this heartrending tale set in a Swaziland boarding school where two girls of different castes bond over a shared copy of Jane Eyre. Adele Joubert loves being one of the popular girls at Keziah Christian Academy. She knows the upcoming semester at school is going to be great with her best friend Delia at her side. Then Delia dumps her for a new girl with more money, and Adele is forced to share a room with Lottie, the school pariah, who doesn't pray and defies teachers' orders. But as they share a copy of Jane Eyre, Lottie's gruff exterior and honesty grow on Adele, and Lottie learns to be a little sweeter. Together, they take on bullies and protect each other from the vindictive and prejudiced teachers. Then a boy goes missing on campus and Adele and Lottie must rely on each other to solve the mystery and maybe learn the true meaning of friendship.


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CBCA Shortlist 2020:Book of the Year: Older Readers

CBCA Review:Set in a boarding school in 1960s Swaziland, this novel deftly explores complex structures of race, class and gender. While the setting of a small country in Africa will be foreign to most readers, the power play between teenage girls is universal and recognisable and the added element of a missing boy moves the book into the mystery genre and will be sure to hold the reader’s attention. The setting is evocative, and the author uses rich language to portray an experience of Africa that many readers will not be familiar with. The main character undergoes a significant journey of personal growth and exploration during which she is forced to confront her own prejudices and question the societal structures that navigate her life. Lyrical prose, excellent sense of place, important themes explored with sensitivity and the author’s unique perspective gives us a book with high literary merit and a fresh view of the teenage experience.

Born and raised in Swaziland on the far edges of the British Empire, Malla Nunn attended a boarding school specially set up for 'mixed race' children. The students at the school spent their time learning the Bible, breaking the rules, and then lying about it. In common with most colonial institutions, stealing, fighting, and violence were common. It was in this charged atmosphere that Nunn developed a fascination with bad behaviour, risk and punishment. After her family migrated to Australia to escape apartheid, Nunn graduated with a double degree in English and History and then earned a Master of Arts in Theater Studies from Villanova University. Faced with a life of chronic under-employment, she dabbled in acting and screenwriting. She wrote and directed three award-winning films, including Servant of the Ancestors, which won Best Documentary awards at film festivals in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Zanzibar, and was shown on national television in Australia. She married in a traditional Swazi ceremony. Her bride price was eighteen cows. She now lives and works in a weatherboard house with a tin roof and an olive tree in the garden in Sydney, Australia.

General Fields

  • : 9781760524814
  • : Allen & Unwin
  • : Allen & Unwin Children's Books
  • : May 2019
  • : length:- '19.8' width:- '12.8'
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Malla Nunn
  • : 272
  • : English
  • : 2020
  • : Paperback