A game like no other, Tessa Sitjes
The Fire Keeper’s Girls
L P Hansen
13 October 2020
The Fire Keeper’s Girls is an intriguing coming of age story by L P Hansen that explores the lives of teenage cousins Gemma and Alice as they embark on a journey to understand themselves and their place in the world.
Forced by their parents to spend the summer on an isolated beach with a mysterious woman named Samantha, both girls become players in what is known as The Game, meeting and learning about inspirational women, understanding the social pressures that affect this present generation of women and acquiring the determination to fight their own battles in their troubled lives back home.
Part 1 of The Fire Keeper’s Girls reveals that prior to meeting Samantha, Gemma was a rebellious, angry, lonely girl with her “dyed black hair and kohl blackened eyes”. This is due to her damaged past associated with cruel anarchists, who strained her relationship with her wealthy parents and added to the existing weight of their forceful expectations of her future as a lawyer.
Shamed, secretive, abused Alice’s hard background is no better off, with her family situation being anything but content. For these reasons both girls are sent to spend the summer with Sam, with the hostility between the stand-offish cousins being undeniable.
Every day for a week, Sam takes Gemma and Alice to events around the island, organising meetings with her friends and encouraging them to research inspiring women, sparking their interests in the theatre (Gemma) and botany (Alice). Sam reveals that the girls are players in what is known as “The Game” and she is later discovered to be The Game’s Fire Keeper.
The Game exists because “when women lose their natural place in the world, certain people pass it on to girls who are ready”. She is there to help the girls find their “fire” and place in the ever-changing world they live in.
The central themes in this novel begin to appear as the girls follow their dreams and find the determination to succeed on their chosen paths. Throughout their time at Sam’s house, the barriers the girls had previously built up begin to crumble as they form strong relationships with each other.
The idea of The Game also brings light to important social pressures women must face in this current generation. “Some social pressures never change, no matter when or where they appear. How women look is one. Men have defined the ideal female body for centuries, and women always fall for it. Even though that ideal keeps changing.”
The author is teaching us that society’s perceived “ideal female body type” is a recurring problem in our world, especially due to men constantly altering what it looks like or creating this unrealistic goal that women feel pressured to reach.
“Most women either conform to these ideals or fight them, but I rarely see anyone question who sets the standards and why.”
The novel continues to incorporate a wide variety of relevant issues that include bullying, sexual abuse, the pressure of parental expectations, and even deforestation. This shows how the author is determined to attack tough topics in order to increase awareness and gain support to end these worldwide problems.
The end of Part 1 observes Sam exchanging a parting gift with the girls to utilise if they are ever in danger. Gemma and Alice compare their present selves to whom they were previous to entering the game, realising that a drastic development has occurred in both of their lives.
Gemma is much more creative, open, colourful and flamboyant while Alice has rid of her shame and anger to reveal the witty, curious, joyful personality she had been hiding. I must mention that while reading the book I definitely felt connected and could relate to the character of Alice with my similar love for education, science and delight in the natural world.
Part 2 of the novel follows Gemma and Alice as they journey back home into their everyday lives, trying to refocus their futures according to their newfound passions and reset forceful boundaries between themselves and those who have hurt them both physically and mentally.
However, they soon find that this is easier said than done. Both encounter predicaments that challenge the girls ability to overcome obstacles in order to continue following their dreams. Due to the central themes and conventions of this novel The Fire Keeper’s Girls evidently narrows it’s audience down to young girl readers of ages 13 -17.
In my opinion, while the novel is generally an interesting read, the storyline is tedious and doesn’t naturally flow in some areas. There were a few unpredictable plot twists, occasionally making it hard for me to want to continue reading. Nevertheless, I loved how after the novel the author includes the stories of all the women Gemma and Alice researched in Part 1 of the book.
I learnt an immense amount about many incredible women, and I especially loved the stories of Margaret Hamilton and Helen Sharman as a result of my passion for astronomy and coding. Another thing I noticed throughout the novel is Hansen’s ability to fluidly interchange between points of view, giving readers the ability to understand the girl’s differing personalities, opinions and experiences.
Altogether, The Fire Keeper’s Girls is an inspiring novel that exposed me to new ideas and issues this world is currently facing and so personally, I am inclined to give this novel a rating of
- Tessa Sitjes is 14 years old and lives in Christchurch