The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone – Felicity McLean

‘We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song and when one came back, she wasn’t the one we were trying to recall to begin with.’ –

I received this book free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not usually one for faces on book covers but the way this one is done is really appealing and suits the story inside.

As for the story itself: if you’re a fan of The Virgin Suicides and Australian literature, then you will enjoy this.

The writing was simple, easy to read, mostly narrated by a child who talks too much and just wants to know what’s going on. The tragic loss or disappearance of the Van Apfel Girls follows Tikka well into adulthood and halfway across the world. Throughout the story we’re exposed to hard hitting issues, sensitive topics, presented in the Australian summer heat and sprinkled with nostalgia. You would be hard pressed to find an Aussie kid that doesn’t relate to the memories shared in this novel (wetting your hat at recess to cool off, Sunny Boys and Buffalo Bill, the dowdy way the teachers dressed).

The fear of particular characters, and experiencing their behaviours through Tikka’s eyes was absolutely visceral. I felt my body tense reading through some noteworthy passages and even thinking of them now makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I think that’s a great testament to the writer’s abilities.

I highly recommend this to others who grew up in Australia, I think you’ll feel as though you’re a part of the story. If you grew up elsewhere, this is a great snapshot of what life was like for some growing up down under.


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