Coal Creek by Alex Miller
Stockman Bobby Blue decides to take a job in Mount Hay as the new constable’s offsider. Daniel, the constable, his wife Esme and their two girls, Irie and Miriam, are new to the western country and, struggling to understand its inhabitants. They invite Bobby to stay in a hut on their property where he is educated alongside their daughters. Eventually there’s an abrupt and ruthless change in attitude from Daniel and Esme towards Bobby. When tragedy strikes at Coal Creek theconsequences will haunt Bobby for decades.
First Impressions: The narrator’s (Bobby Blue) tone was so wistful I almost felt like crying!
Highlights: This novel is quite slow moving but I was gripped by the final few chapters when there was a bit more action. I thought Deeds was an interesting character and maybe would have liked to see more of her.
If I was an editor: I know this novel is intended to be a slow burner – this no doubt reflects the pace of life in Mount Hay and similar outback towns – but for me it was too slow and Bobby’s thoughts were sometimes repetitive to annoyance. When I get down to it, the character of Bobby Blue irritated me with his simple outlook and sparing use of words. For instance, when Bobby and Daniel went out to hunt a criminal in the police vehicle, Bobby knew they wouldn’t be able to cross the creek and would need horses but as Daniel didn’t ask, Bobby didn’t illuminate him with this vital piece of information until they reached said creek. Aaarrrghhhh!
Overall: Speak up!
Coal Creek: 3 Stars
Monday 17 November 2014
John Patterner in Alex Miller’s Lovesong, page 64.
‘Australia,’ he said. ‘I’m from Australia.’
‘Whereabouts in Australia? My husband sailed there many times when he was in the merchant navy.’
‘New South Wales originally, but Melbourne these days,’ John Patterner said.
‘Dom visited the Dandenong mountains. Do you know them?’
John Patterner laughed. ‘Of course! The Dandenongs, for sure. They’re just hills, really.They’re not mountains.’
‘So you know them?’
‘Of course, yes. Everyone in Melbourne knows the Dandenongs.’
Lovesong by Alex Miller
Ken, a curmudgeonly writer becomes intrigued by the family who run the new local bakery. John Patterner met his wife Sabhiha while on a sabbatical in Europe. Together they ran in Chez Dom, a run down Tunisian café in the back streets of Paris, well off the tourist path. They are contented in their marriage but are destined to always be strangers to each other, both from different cultures and living in a third, communicating in French rather than their native languages. Sabiha yearns for a child. John feels himself being pulled back to Australia. Is there a remedy to strengthen their relationship?
First Impressions: I was instantly drawn into Alex Miller’s writing, more specifically Ken’s voice. Interestingly, I did not find Ken an engaging character at this point.
Highlights: There is much to love about this novel. The narrative frame is interesting as Sabiha’s story is told by her husband to Ken who then relates it to us. I did wonder if Ken’s inclusion was necessary as he was a rather innocuous character. However, much to my surprise, towards the end of the novel Ken’s true character emerges and I found him highly entertaining. MIller really made Vaugiraud in Paris come alive. I could just imagine walking the back streets and I had a strong sense of what Chez Dom would have been like. As an expat I could also relate to John Patterner’s moments of yearning for Australia that were not necessarily based on logical reasoning, and the small details he remembers from his childhood.
If I was an editor: It is just nitpicking but Sabiha’s longing for a baby perhaps did go on for a bit too long. I would have also liked more of the narrator’s story – I really liked Ken by the end!
Overall: So glad I read this. Such a lovely story.
Lovesong: 5 stars