Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Craig Silvey

Allen & Unwin - $35

Every now and again a novel comes along that leaves me feeling slightly stunned.
Jasper Jones, which I finished reading half an hour ago, over two cups of coffee at Agnes Curran cafe, has left me feeling numb and bereft.
Numb becaues of the power and beauty and brilliance of the story and bereft because I didn't want it to end, I want to know more about the young protagonists and what happens to them as they enter the adult world.

This novel is a total knockout. Watch for it to start appearing in various awards longlists as the year goes on, but more than that, I urge you to get a copy and read it for yourself.

In Craig Silvey I reckon Australia has produced another Tim Winton, and the interesting thing is that like Winton, Silvey hails from Western Australia. I predict a very bright future for this young man, this is his second novel (Rhubarb was his first), and he is only in his mid-twenties.
What astonished me particularly is that the story is told in the first person by the protagonist Charlie Bucktin who is only 13 years old. I was a little skeptical at this appraoch at first but believe me it works, it is powerful stuff, I couldn't put it down, the humour, the heartbreak and the imagery will haunt me for a long, long time to come.

Here is the back cover blurb which is an excellent synopsis:

Late on a hot summer night in the tail end of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleep-out.
His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress.
Jasper takes him through town and to his secret glade in the bush, and it’s here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper’s horrible discovery. With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushed and pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion as he locks horns with his tempestuous mother; falls nervously in love and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffrey Lu.
And in vainly attempting to restore the parts that have been shaken loose, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth, and why white lies creep like a curse. In the simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.
Set during the summer of 1965-66, when Doug Walters scored his first Test century, a year after the Nedlands Monster was the last man hanged in WA, in the midst of the Vietnam War, and the same summer the Beaumont children disappeared from a beach near Adelaide, the characters in Jasper Jones will make you laugh, shock you to attention and stay in your heart forever.

And here is info about the very talented author:
Craig Silvey grew up on an orchard in Dwellingup Western Australia. He now lives in Fremantle, where at the age of 19, he wrote his first novel, Rhubarb, published by Fremantle Press in 2004.
In 2005, best-selling Rhubarb, was chosen as the 'One Book' for the Perth International Writers' Festival, and was included in the national Books Alive campaign. Silvey also received a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist Award.
In 2007, Silvey released The World According To Warren, a picture book affectionately starring the guide-dog from Rhubarb.
In early 2008, he completed his second novel, Jasper Jones, with the aid of an Australia Council New Work Grant. Outside of literature, Silvey is the singer/songwriter for the band The Nancy Sikes!


Rachael King said...

I have just started reading this on your recommendation, Graham. I picked it up and read the first few pages at the library and couldn't leave without it! I am now skim reading the other book I had on the go (I hate to abandon books altogether) and can't wait to get to something that I actually enjoy.

Rachael King said...

Just finished it and wow - loved it. Amazing characterization and language. The fact that the 13 year old is precocious when it comes to his love of language completely works and elevates it above your usual child-narrator (not usually a fan) novels. I loved the relationship between Charlie and Jeffrey, who was a wonderful, resilient character. There was suspense, but it was only one element among many. Good stuff, thanks for the recommendation, Graham.

surfer chick said...

Love this book amazing!!! haven't found a book like this in years!!! I left my copy with my aunt on the central coast and so now I need a copy and I can not find it anywhere though. Where can I find it?