Adelaide’s Secret World
Allen & Unwin, 2015
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Adelaide lives alone in a large city, sitting quietly at her window recalling the bustling life and the friendships that once were when people lived and worked in the neighbourhood, but now strangely silent as each individual hurries off after their own pursuits. Hidden behind her red curtain, Adelaide is invisible to those scurrying along the streets, lonely and isolated despite being in the midst of so much movement and motion. It is indeed, a secret world. She amuses herself by turning her observations into artworks, making up stories to go with each character- those like her who are “the still ones, the quiet ones, those who dance and dream alone”. Capturing each in the clean, clear glass bubble of a terrarium, each discrete and disconnected from the other just as they are in real life. But one day she is restless and she goes out – only to be caught in a thunderstorm which changes not only her life forever, but also those of those she sees each day. The red curtain that has hidden her starts to unravel and becomes the thread that binds…
This is an enchanting, almost mystical story about being alone and lonely and having the courage to act when the opportunity arises to find the kindred spirit that each of us is looking for. It matters not that, in this case, Adelaide is a rabbit and her soulmate is a fox – that just strengthens the message that opposites attract and the one we thought we could not be friends with, is actually the right one for us.
The beautiful illustrations mirror the mood of the story perfectly – they are subdued and misty with soft-edges that suggest that blurry look of times past and times future as they lack clarity, but are sharp, bright and in focus in the here and now. Calm and turmoil are juxtaposed in colour, line and movement and are the perfect complement to the text, both the physical and internal storms that Adelaide has to weather.
On the surface this is a picture book about being lonely and then not, but it is such a universal story that contains so many metaphors both within and without that every reading reveals new layers. Hurst writes, “The rain soaked windows glittered like a jewellery box.” In my opinion, this is a treasure chest with so many hidden gems waiting to be discovered.