FacebookGoogle PlusInstagramLinkedInTwitter
Presented by State Library Victoria

Catching Teller Crow Discussion Questions

Well I have read this book twice now – and reading it a third time. This book tightly weaves crime, including a cold case, gritty realism, history, mystical imagery and poetry in a succinct dual narrative. It covers themes of grief, violence, injustice, Indigenous peoples history and family. I’m sure we will have so much to talk about!

Visually,  for me, the book is bright and murky simultaneously. The is the shimmering of the heat, the red dust, the bright light of the outback. But there is also the grey obscure other world of Isobel Catching’s story. Colour is a strong motif throughout the book, representing the life force in the girls that is extracted by the Feed. And the colours drawing Beth towards moving on. Colour is also present in the names Sarah Blue, Beth’s yellow dress, Isobel’s mother’s scarlet red hair and of course blacker than black Crow, and the use of grey throughout the narrative. How effective do you think the use of colour is in the book? How do you think it conveys the narrative of Beth’s movement to another plane? How does the colour represent strength and hope in the story?

I thought we’d also kick the discussion off with a MAJOR ELEMENT of the book – the two voices/ the two writing styles. The book is part prose and part verse.  Beth’s voice and Catching’s. What are the advantages of each form of writing? For me, writing Catching’s story in verse allows the writers to focus on the damage and trauma of abuse rather than the actual physical. How does this empower our view of Catching? Beth is very in the now which I loved. She is finding things out as we, the reader do, which makes the mystery solving really compelling to read.

How do the two styles of writing inform each other? Do they compel you as a reader?

Why not try writing a section narrated by Beth in verse and a section of Catching’s story in prose? Would there still be mystery and what is essentially, a detective story? What are the strengths and disadvantages of both styles?

Catching’s story very cleverly deepens and elucidates the mystery simultaneously. It just takes a different kind of understanding to uncover the truth in the story.

‘I’m not telling you what happened to ask for help,’

“then why are you telling it?’

…’to be heard.’

Her story contains important historical information about two generations of family that were forcibly removed by the Australian government – stolen. What are we to understand about Catching’s desire to tell her story in her own way and be heard? What are we to understand about being patient enough to listen to the whole story to uncover a truth?

There’s so much in this book to talk about. I have used the Teacher Notes from Allen and Unwin website to help with the discussions and will share some of the resources. Looking forward to discussion in the comments or in contributor posts and on other lit club posts.  So over to you!

23 comments

lauraamabel

Oh wow! What a lot to discuss, I guess that I'll kick off a conversation about the writing styles. I think that they complemented each other wonderfully. While I love verse, I could not read an entire novel of the stuff and I think that we were given just the right amount to really enjoy it. The way that Catching told her story was wonderful, and I don't think she would have been the same character had she told it any other way. The way that the mystery unravelled through verse was ingenious!

At the same time, I don't believe that Beth's story would be the same if it was not written the way it was. Writing things in verse would have changed her voice as a character, but it would be a really fascinating experiment.

3w ago
inky Centre for Youth Literature

Yes I totally agree - I loved how the writing style reflected the "voice" of that character. I also loved the power of saying something with a metaphor. Catching doesn't give details of the abuse but we still understand the devastating damage of the abuse. Which is the main thing. It empowers the survivor for the story to be about her and not the abusers.

3w ago
lauraamabel

In reply to inky

Exactly! I think that it was so important for Catching to tell her own story, and the way she did was so unique.

3w ago
lauraamabel

Also, if anyone wants any further fiction(ish) reading about the stolen generation, I totally recommend Stolen by Jane Harrison, which is a play that stars six very different characters and shows some really raw effects of the stolen generation.

3w ago
inky Centre for Youth Literature

Thanks! I will put some more resources up too in a later post.

3w ago
imosshelf

I agree with most of the above comments. I think that Catching's narrative in verse aptly represented the trauma and damage that she had experienced. I liked that Beth's narrative was written in prose as it displayed that while dead, she still felt whole and a part of something - Catching was a little more removed from everything, just like her perspective.

3w ago
lauraamabel

Completely! I think that the way she was removed and detached from her story also highlights the way that the abuse she faced has forced her to detach from herself in a way.

3w ago
inky Centre for Youth Literature

In reply to lauraamabel

And sometimes the words to describe abuse are too hurtful and hard to say whereas putting it in a story of monsters and other worlds means she can be heard.

3w ago
lauraamabel

In reply to inky

Yes! I think that it serves those two purposes: it helps her to shield herself from the abuse and it helps others to connect to her story in a deeper way. I think that the verse forces us as readers to think harder about the story and concentrate more. The idea of a monster is also a common idea that can be understood by all. In a way, we can all relate because we have all dealt with monsters in various situations.

I know that Catching's verse is what really stuck with me from this novel.

3w ago
inky Centre for Youth Literature

In reply to lauraamabel

Okay I hadn't thought of how the verse makes us think harder! So true!

3w ago
lauraamabel

In reply to inky

I guess it's so a-typical to have poetry used to tell a story rather than to convey emotions, so we have to use a skill we don't often practice.

3w ago
inky Centre for Youth Literature

Yes - I love that you have connected that Beth's writing style is straight prose which shows how she is connected to the real world and how Catching's trauma has disjointed her from reality.

3w ago
inky Centre for Youth Literature

Okay so what about Beth's prose? imosshelf has identified how she is still connected with the real world so her voice is present and straight prose. Anything else?

3w ago
lauraamabel

I think that Beth has a very logical way about her (despite still being emotional at times) and her style of storytelling highlights this. Her death changes her perspective and allows her to look at things from an external perspective, meaning she is no longer so deeply connected to and affected by her story in the same way Catching is haunted by her trauma.

2w ago
bookwithbane

How effectively do you think the use of colour is in the book?

To be honest, I hadn't even thought about colour. As a near aphantasiac, it didn't really come into much focus for me. But it seems that they do! Thanks for bringing that insight. I feel as though the colours represent a very simplistic and childish interpretation of the world and that they represent all the good in the world and thus are the first to go when Catching undergoes trauma and are the first to appear when Beth ascends.

How do you think it conveys the narrative of Beth’s movement to another plane?

Again it's a very childish and simplistic view of the world. Heaven/the other plane of existence is better than our plane(i.e why Catching urges Beth to move on)

How does the colour represent strength and hope in the story?

Well you see Catching and Crow regain their colours as they become strong and escape! Conversely, their hope and

2w ago
bookwithbane

strength disappear as they undergo abuse.

What are the advantages of each form of writing?

Beth helps to feel the book presently and add context to the story. It also represents her character, dead, but still present in this world. She speaks very livelily. On the other hand, Catching's voice helps change the interpretation of the book and to add context and add drama. It also represents her character, distanced from the world. As others have already mentioned, Catching's unique verse forces you to interpret the text and to think a little harder. After a while though, Catching's verse can leave a reader annoyed/frustrated and sick of the repetitive verses, whilst Beth's voice does not.

2w ago
bookwithbane

Why not try writing a section narrated by Beth in verse and a section of Catching’s story in prose?

It doesn't quite have the same effect, as Beth is the narrator and most readers did not sign up to read a whole book of poetry and as I've mentioned before, the verse can get highly frustrating and boring after a while. Catching's dissociation and unique interpretations would not be clearly expressed through prose.

Would there still be a mystery and what is essential to a detective story?

No. The many guesses the reader takes would not be the same and the elements of mystery and tension in Catching's verse would be gone.

What are we to understand about Catching’s desire to tell her story in her own way and be heard?

She is distancing herself from her trauma and telling her story in her own way, also relating back to her cultural stories(e.g Indigenous Australian tales of the Stolen Generation, the Catching women,

2w ago
lauraamabel

In reply to bookwithbane

I completely agree. Catching's verse is unique to her and her trauma. The way she retells her abuse as if it was a fairytale helps her to dissociate from what happened and protect herself from reality. Without the reader unravelling her story, there would not be a mystery.

2w ago
inky Centre for Youth Literature

In reply to bookwithbane

Yes I think distancing herself from trauma while connecting herself to the resilience shown by her ancestors. I like this focus on survivors rather than victims.

1w ago
inky Centre for Youth Literature

Yes it would be hard to read a whole book in Catching's verse. I think crime and mystery works well in first person present tense. We are discovering things with Beth which is compelling.

1w ago
bookwithbane

and myths) and her way of telling the story actually reminds me of Kit from Neverland's way of dealing with her mental health issues.

What are we to understand about being patient enough to listen to the whole story to uncover the truth?

That pursuing the truth is a noble act and that it is worth it, no matter the cost. It can enlighten us and it can bring peace to those who help find it

2w ago
inky Centre for Youth Literature

I really like that bookwithbane. I also think it means we have to tune in to the teller and understand different ways of seeing the world to understand someone's truth.

2w ago
sylvs

I agree with @Lauraamabel I think the writing styles definitely complimented each other. There are so many books that just change perspectives instead of also changing writing style, but it really worked with Catching Teller Crow. It easily distinguished who's storyline and voice we were listening to and it really suited the novel altogether. I think it was important for the story to change writing styles to travel between what happened in the past and what happened in the present as well as telling Catching's story in a way that really resonated with the readers.

2w ago