#aww2018 · 2018 Reviews · Australian · book bingo · contemporary fiction

#Book Bingo 2018: ‘A book written by someone over 60’ – Sanctuary by Judy Nunn

Book bingo june 16.jpg

#Book Bingo 2018 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite blogger, Theresa Smith WritesHow does it work?  We have devised our own personalised book bingo card game. Twice a month, on the first and third Saturday of the month, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The book bingo card contains a total of 25 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year. To accommodate all the squares, we will be posting additional entries in the months of March and June, this will ensure that we stay on track to complete the book bingo game by December. To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us. We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post or by visiting Theresa Smith Writes.


In Judy Nunn’s latest compelling novel, compassion meets bigotry, hatred meets love, and ultimately despair meets hope on the windswept shores of Australia.

On a barren island off the coast of Western Australia, a rickety wooden dinghy runs aground. Aboard are nine people who have no idea where they are. Strangers before the violent storm that tore their vessel apart, the instinct to survive has seen them bond during their days adrift on a vast and merciless ocean.

Fate has cast them ashore with only one thing in common . . . fear. Rassen the doctor, Massoud the student, the child Hamid and the others all fear for their lives. But in their midst is Jalila, who appears to fear nothing. The beautiful young Yazidi woman is a mystery to them all.

While they remain undiscovered on the deserted island, they dare to dream of a new life . . .

But forty kilometres away on the mainland lies the tiny fishing port of Shoalhaven. Here everyone knows everyone, and everyone has their place. In Shoalhaven things never change.

Until now . . .

My review:

The timing of Sanctuary, the 14th novel from trusted Australian author Judy Nunn, is spot on. Who better to shine a light on the plight of illegal immigrants who enter Australia’s shores and the policies our nation has worked around this hot topic, than master storyteller, Judy Nunn. Sanctuary is a novel that works to break down our barriers or preconceived notions of refugees, offering a tale of hope, compassion and understanding.

Sanctuary is situated in Western Australia, based around a fictional small fishing area and island in the area of Geraldton. It is based around the events that transpire when an unseaworthy dingy fights a storm on its way to Australia’s shores. On board are nine refugees, from different countries, cultures and religions, but all wish to seek sanctuary in Australia. The storm wrecks their vessel apart and barely alive, the troop of nine make it to the shores of an island filled with abandoned fishing huts. The group decide to stay put and try to remain hidden on this deserted island. When a local fisherman makes a startling discovery, he changes the fate of the refugees on the island and the community of Shoalhaven, the nearest mainland fishing port.

Judy Nunn is up there amongst my favourite Australian authors. She never ceases to amaze me with her storytelling skills, they are quite remarkable! Nunn has a knack for piecing together elements of our nation’s history, the fabric of our nation – its people and unique settings and placing them on the pages of an engrossing novel. I would say Sanctuary is a novel that is a slight departure from Nunn’s usual style of novel. It is a very contemporary tale and a book that I feel has a story that needs to be told.

Sanctuary has some powerful themes and narrative elements. Ultimately, is a very relevant and fresh study of Australia’s refugee status issue and the policies currently enacted in our country. It is a book that works to break down our constructions and prejudices. By the conclusion of this novel I felt like Nunn had opened my eyes to a whole new view of refugees. Her stance is clear, it is compassionate and is clearly in support of refugees. It is a book that presents refugees in a sympathetic light, to view them as people in their own right, with their own unique, but often tragic back stories.

Nunn has an aptitude for developing well shaped characters. There are quite a few players in this text, but Nunn captures the spirit of each and every character that appears in Sanctuary. I appreciated the opportunity to learn about each refugee that landed on the island, their skills, tragic past and hopes for the future. I also enjoyed getting to know the locals from Shoalhaven such as Lou, Paul and Bev. These strikingly ordinary figures reminded me that acceptance, compassion and the very best of the human spirit exists.

The sense of place is incredibly rich in this novel. Although Shoalhaven and the island of Gevaar are fictional, I still derived a strong sense of place from these authentic locales. I have visited the area of Geraldton, roughly in the same area of which this novel settles itself. As a WA girl, like the author Judy Nunn, I felt Nunn captured the essence and the windswept feel of this area very well indeed.

Underneath the strong themes of this novel is an underlying thread of hope and love. In addition, there is a romantic sub plot involving the most tragic face of this group of refugees, a beautiful woman named Jalila. This passionate and realistic love story managed to get under my skin. I dared to dream that there would be hope for this couple, their future and the refugees. Nunn leaves this aspect of the story open to interpretation.

My final word on Sanctuary is to give Judy Nunn the recognition she deserves in the attention to finite detail contained in her well researched novel. I know from listening to Nunn speak some years ago at an author event that each book she writes takes a two year cycle. Much of this time is dedicated to honing in on her main subject matter. The level of research directed to Sanctuary is faultless and is evidenced in the ‘Acknowledgements’ section of the novel, which I encourage you to read.

Sanctuary is a novel that may work to divide some, or educate the reader on an extremely topical issue across our nation and the world, the plight of refugees seeking asylum. It is a tough and emotionally fraught topic, but Nunn takes it in her stride, presenting her audience with a book that reaches deep into the soul of humanity, revealing hope can come from utter despair.

Sanctuary by Judy Nunn was published on October 16th 2017 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Sanctuary, Judy Nunn visit here

Sanctuary is book #62 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge


13 thoughts on “#Book Bingo 2018: ‘A book written by someone over 60’ – Sanctuary by Judy Nunn

  1. #Book Bingo 2018: ‘A book written by someone under 30’ – Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

    I was searching for a novel to fill the book bingo square: a book written by someone under 30 and I came across Girl Online at my local Salvo store, reading the inside covers facing page divulged her age of 24 (now 28), and the synopsis hinted it to be a fun and easy-going read, therefore both met my needs splendidly! Every now and again I adore gentle, fluffy and relaxing reads and this was one such book and, of course, the mention of New York…I’m so there!

    After finishing the book I read a few Goodreads reviews and also a quick search on the net revealed that Ms Sugg is not the author of Girl Online. Well, golly gosh, the book was written by a ghostwriter, sure as eggs is eggs. I am gobsmacked though, at the drama this has created, does it really matter that Zoe Sugg worked with an expert editorial team to help her bring to life her characters?… many many authors use ghostwriters, it doesn’t matter a hoot to me whether she was sitting at the keyboard or standing behind someone pitching her ideas. “If you read her book, it is Zoe’s Sugg’s story and an expression of herself.”

    Perhaps this was a fluffy, cheesy, cliched and predictable read, even so, I thought it was adorable, enjoyable, lighthearted and highly entertaining and a perfect escapist read.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Happy Book Bingo to you Sue. I have a feeling we are almost at the half way check point and you are doing so well. I recall reading this one some time ago, near when it released, it seemed very popular at the time. I have to agree it is fluffy, cheesy cliched but sometimes we need these escapist style reads! Great review, I enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Amanda! Yes, we sure are at the half way check point. Yay! It’s been so much fun, here’s to us on the next six months book bingo challenge!
    Love your review of Sanctuary. A book I might get to one day though not sure how I’ll feel reading about topical issues such as illegal immigrants/refugees landing on our shores. I prefer to read something that takes me away from the real world. And plus what peeves me off a little the author makes you want to sympathise with these refugees when they’re only characters in a book and not a real person because we have seen the reality how the refugees act. So, not really a fan of these books.

    Liked by 1 person

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