This is a great book by Craig Silvey. Set in an outback Australian mining town in the mid-60s, it tells the story of dramatic events that occur in a small town through the eyes of an intelligent and articulate 13 year old boy.
The characters are strong and very believable. I love the expressiveness of the author as he masterfully creates atmosphere and establishes cultural attitudes of the small town. Here’s an example:
But the rarest and most revered feat is to snatch a peach from the large tree that grows by the flank of the cottage like a zombie’s hand bursting from a grave. To pilfer and eat a peach from the property of Mad Jack Lionel assures you instant royalty.
The story navigates beautifully through huge themes of injustice, discrimination, loyalty, friendship, love and unfaithfulness. With the Vietnam war as a backdrop to this story, inter-racial tensions also create a mix of opposing flavours. Charlie’s best friend, Jeffery Lu, demonstrates his delightful and skilful wit with constant bantering and arguments with Charlie about whether Superman is better than Batman.
Without giving away too much, Charlie is a bookish kid who dreams of kissing Eliza Wishart and being a famous writer. He loves to read and adores the story of Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. His best mate is a Vietnamese boy who is smart as hell. Charlie also has a curious friendship with Jasper Jones – a boy the whole town is suspicious of. It is this friendship that causes Charlie a whole lot of trouble.
Read it. It’s beautifully Australian and carries a purity of intention and thrust which is a powerful combination.
Have your read this book? What did you think?