This Australian debut novel by Mark Brandi is certainly worth picking up and spending an afternoon reading and so think a lot of others as it has a list of longlisted, shortlisted and highly commended rankings in some prestigious awards in the UK, USA and Australia and won the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award.
This coming of age novel is set in a small Australian town and focusses on the friendship of two friends Ben and Fab. There were a number of themes running through the book – that of the foreigner not being accepted , school bullying, teenage suicide, the development of sexual ideation, domestic violence, and when a stranger comes to town the undercurrent of something deeper and darker. This author is skilled at showing – not telling leaving us in little doubt without having to be given specific details.
The language in the book may upset some due to number of profanities but to me it was the vernacular of teenage boys and much of the language was that of my youth. My question would be that it seemed to be the language of Australia in the sixties and seventies rather than the eighties when it was set. I know that I can certainly remember that special room where we ate Sunday lunch or when visitors came over.
The descriptions also put the reader in place.
” They were at the beginning of a narrow trail that twisted and disappeared into the dark scrub.
Fab had never been up this path before, but he knew the land well. He knew the smell of the rich volcanic earth and the sigh of wind through the trees.
He knew the steep slope of the hills, the brush of the long weeds on his legs, and the sharp grass seeds scratching in his socks.
It was the land of winter, of hunting, of his father.”
As the boys age so too do their voices. Their lives are portrayed so clearly that you feel you are living it with them. Innocent boys being ruined by evil men. You can’t help but flow with the tension as it builds and gives you a whole range of emotions.
Would I recommend this book: Yes I most definitely would.If you liked Jane Harper’s The Dry and also Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird I have no doubt that you would also enjoy this novel.