Roseghetto by Kirsty Jagger

Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve

Roseghetto is a poignant and powerful reminder that it is possible to escape the confines of a deprived childhood and, through the portal of books, find an alternative, happier life.

In Kirsty Jagger’s first book, this is superbly shown in the main character of Shayla. She is the innocent victim of her mother’s dysfunctional relationships with two violent, cruel and selfish men. Lauren cannot live without the presence of a male. The first one, Shayla’s father, abusive and possessive will stop at nothing to hurt Lauren by demanding his parental rights. She eventually realises steps must be taken to restrain him by resorting to legal support.

Lauren then falls pregnant to Rob, a former high school boyfriend, who in turn demonstrates that there are countless ways to be a cruel and selfish bully. He is the  father of the two little boys, Nash and Joe, but he mostly ignores them. Shayla is the target of his venomous attacks. She is deprived of essentials, even food. Rob, however always has a plentiful supply of beer and money to indulge himself.

The four move to Rosemeadow, to a larger house to improve conditions for the three children. The house may be bigger, but Rob soon converts the yard to a slum, in keeping with their littered street, Westminster Way, where murder, fire, continual violent arguments prevail.  Many residents wile away the days sitting outside watching domestic dramas and drinking. A police car is almost always parked at the end of their road.

In a delightful inclusion, Kirsty Jagger mentions the books currently being enjoyed by Shayla that allow her to forget her surroundings. These are indicators of her stages of development and changing outlook on life. As soon as she mastered the skill, she haunts libraries and avidly reads, progressing from the Very Hungry Caterpillar to Lord of the Flies, with a heap of books in between.

Friends close by brighten her days. Charlie and Sean are kind and caring and the trio support and look out for each other, with the understanding of their shared environment.

Beacons of kindness and generosity, and most importantly, unconditional love, are Poppy and Nanna, Lauren’s parents. Nanna is quick to criticise the mistakes Lauren has made and is disgusted by her choices of men. Shayla, however, they both love dearly. Nanna’s home is a refuge for her, especially in the turmoil of her teenage years.

Roseghetto follows Shayla through her schooling, from kindergarten to high school. Her love of books transfers to skill in writing and in turn she excels in all her subjects. This gives her choices and with the insight and encouragement of her teachers she faces an exciting pathway to the future.

This overview only outlines the difficulties Shayla has had to confront. So profound is her depression at one stage that she becomes anorexic and inflicts self-harm. Her mother chooses Rob to support and so enforces his cruel and unreasonable sanctions….no heating, grounded for weeks, driving away the boy she likes, sometimes given no food. Shayla is an outcast yet virtual slave in her own family….

There are intervals when the injustice and abuse are distressing to read, particularly when directed at a child or animal, yet somehow, Kirsty manages to surmount wallowing sentimentality or tendency to be judgmental. Her tone is sensitive and deeply affecting. She cares for them all except for the two partners of Lauren who are condemned by their own actions.

Readers of this book are most likely blessed by happy sheltered childhoods. Yet there are too many Shaylas struggling to make sense of their worlds. There are so many Laurens too. Roseghetto reminds us that we must not forget that fact.



by Kirsty Jagger


ISBN 978 070226 64 1

$32.99; 390pp

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