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Rocks In The Belly

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  240 ratings  ·  51 reviews
How far can you push a child?
Rocks in the Belly is about a precocious eight-year-old boy and the volatile adult he becomes. During childhood his mother fosters boys, despite the jealous turmoil it arouses in her son. Jealousy that reaches unmanageable proportions when she fosters Robert, an amiable child she can’t help bonding with. Until the bond triggers an event that pr
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 2nd 2010 by Scribe Publications Pty Ltd
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Janelle Dazzlepants
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Blurb Radio Show
Review by Bernard Ryan

Jon Bauer “Rocks In The Belly”, Scribe, rrp $34-95, pp 296.

Again we have a first novel, with a front-cover blurb by acclaimed South-African-born, lately ‘naturalised’ Australian, J. M. Coetzee. And the novel was to be launched in Melbourne Monday night by Cate Kennedy, novelist, whose work we have discussed on this program. Jon is off to a flying start and, by and large, his novel deserves it.

His is one of he most polished works of fiction I have rad this year. As is not un
"Meine Kindheit lauert in mir, wie geballte Fäuste in meinen Händen lauern"

Jon Bauer gibt in seinem Debütroman die erdrückende und von Selbstzweifeln geprägte Kindheit des Ich-Erzählers wieder und erzählt von den Narben, welche diese in seinem Leben hinterlassen hat.

Den Namen des Protagonisten erfährt man nicht – bei neuen Bekanntschaften stellt er sich als „Michael“ vor. Nach jahrelangem Aufenthalt in Kanada, kehrt der 28-jährige Ich-Erzähler in sein Elternhaus zurück, um seine kranke Mutter zu
Blue Eyed Vixen
I listened to the audiobook of Rocks in the Belly, which was read by the author, and I must say that he weaves a compelling tale.

The POV swings between the 8 year old child of parents who forster an endless string of boys, to the 28 year old who has returned to care for his terminally ill mother with the hopes that he will vindicate himself of the years his mother treated him more like a second-class citizen while she lavishes the broken children with her affection.

His story was a rollercoaster
From the back cover:
How far can you push a child? Rocks in the Belly is about a precocious eight-year-old boy and the volatile adult he becomes. During childhood his mother fosters boys, despite the jealous turmoil it arouses in her son. Jealousy that reaches unmanageable proportions when she fosters Robert, an amiable child she can't help bonding with. Until the bond triggers an event that profoundly changes everyone. Especially Robert. At twenty-eight the son returns to face his mother. He ha
Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
Rocks in the Belly is narrated by an eight year old boy, an only child desperate for his parents' affections. His mother brings in foster boys which incites a fierce and sometimes dark jealousy. Possessive of his mother's attention, her son does whatever he can to monopolise her affections and when Robert joins their family, all this is set to escalate.

Originally from the UK, but now an Australian citizen living in Melbourne, it's hard to believe this is Jon Bauer's first novel. I read a sample
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rocks in the Belly tells the story of a disturbed child and the troubled, vengeful man he becomes. The book is written jointly by the child who, arguably, is not born bad but becomes bad through the torment of having to share the love of his parents with foster children, and the man who lives with the repercussions of this jealousy and anger. At its very essence Rocks in the Belly details the conflict between the robot and the monster in their struggle to be loved.

It is deeply confronting - at t
Kirsten Krauth

I remember first encountering Jon Bauer in a session, with Fiona McGregor, at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival on writing about mothers. As you know, this is a topic that continues to engage me (on many levels) and I was intrigued because it was unusual to have a male panellist (a refreshing change, actually), and he spoke eloquently about writing female characters.

After his debut novel, Rocks in the Belly, was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Awar
Jan 15, 2011 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lisa by: ANZ LitLovers Yahoo Reading Group
This book is going to be a very good choice for book group discussion! Rocks in the Belly is Jon Bauer’s first novel, and it raises all kinds of issues to test the passions of its readers…

To see my review please visit
Renée Heaton
There is something amazing about debut novels. The author seems more patient somehow and the story and characters are given time to expand and grow. This is an awesome read and I'll tell you why- the story is frenetic, it's harsh at times and feels like it's going a million miles an hour and while you think you've read about 20 pages you've actually just read a paragraph. That's how clever this patient author is, he has the time and passion to carefully craft each word and, while we switch betwe ...more
Judith Yeabsley
This book was shocking, sad, disturbing, frightening and very funny. It follows a disturbed 8 year boy and his experience as an only child sharing his parents with foster children and then his return at 28 to face his mother and his demons. The narration switches between child and man and is often very amusing whilst also being incredibly sad and more than anything disturbing. A total emotional rollercoaster topped off by the harrowing final chapters. Who is to blame? Can life ever be black and ...more
Banafsheh Serov
A disturbing yet touching account of disintegration of a family. The narrative unfolds through two timelines, touching on human insecurities,guilt,jealousy, vengence and love.

Rocks in the Belly follows an extrovert eight year old boy resentful at having to share his parents' (especially his mother's)love and attention with foster boys living with them. This jealousy reaches unmanageable proportions at the arrival of Robert, leading to an act that leaves a lasting and damaging mark on all of the
Rocks in the Belly explores the fractured relationship between a mother and son. She has a compulsion to be foster troubled boys, but fails to notice that the love and attention she devotes to them comes at the cost of her son. He is eight years old when Robert arrives, the latest in a string of foster boys to enter the family. His jealosy curls like a snake within him, and bursts out with an ever-increasing frequency and intensity.

The son is our unnamed narrator. We hear from him as both a chil
Apr 27, 2011 Jenny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers (for study purposes), those who don't get enough of the worst of life in the everyday.
Recommended to Jenny by: Courier Mail review
Shelves: 2010
Put simply, this is a masterpiece. If only this calibre of writing got published then I'd quit yesterday--happily.

This is the story of an un-named man who returns home to be with his mother in her dying days. This is also the story of that man as a child, growing up with somewhat occupied parents, and in particular a mother who is devoted to the point of obsession with fostering troubled boys. (I would describe this as Mother & Son where the son is the devil child, Damien.) But as repellent
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This one has left me in a real quandary, at stages I was entranced and couldn’t put the book down, at other times I was enraged and wanted to throw it across the room, and even at one stage I was going to give up. But one thing is certain the story haunts your thoughts and you spend large chunks of your non reading time thinking about the main character.

Many times in recent years we have examples of authors using a child’s voice to tell their tale (think “Pigeon English”, “Room”, “Vernon God Lit
This is a debut novel which raises many questions about the human condition. Our narrator is both a boy and a grown man and during his childhood his parents choose to foster children. When Robert comes into their home this causes fits of jealousy and difficult sadistic behaviour that one day results in a tragic event. In alternate chapters we are in the present with the troubled and angry young man who returns home to face his ailing mother.
Throughout the narrator remains nameless which is a pow
Rocks in the Belly was extremely well written, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Bauer is able to make the reader feel both pity, disgust and admiration for the boy in this book, both as a 8 year old and a 28 year old, and of course with his mother Mary, the foster mother who neglected her own son in order to give troubled young boys the care and attention they deserved. I had a love/hate relationship with the boy, feeling sorry for him then hating him for torturing his poor cat Alfie. That definately ma ...more
Ben Langdon
This was recommended to me by a writing instructor, as a particularly good example of unique narrative voice as well as imaginative use of figurative language - and boy, was it fun coming across the similes and metaphors. :)

I think the most powerful thing about this book is that the things that happened to the eight year old narrator were so believable and easy to imagine (especially given that I have an eight year old myself). It made what happened next so chillingly heart aching.

I won't give a
I'm not sure what to make of this book. Whilst I found the style very easy to read the subject and characters were awful. Surprisingly I wasn't moved by either the son or the mother and was left thinking both of them were not particularly likeable people. The mother clearly was suffering from the loss of a child and was in someway endeavouring to replace when from my view all she had to do was embrace what she had rather than more. The son - born bad or became bad? couldn't decide but thought if ...more
Rocks in the Belly, is a troubling book about a family told from the perspective of a young man who has come home to look after his terminally ill mother from who he has been estranged. The book switches back and forth from age 8 to 28 and through this device we are given hints and insights into the relationship that he has with his mother and with his father. His parents foster troubled boys and it is the jealousy that this creates in him that is the impetus for his increasingly brattish behavi ...more
Interesting debut novel about an 8-year old boy who struggles with having to share his parents, especially his Mum, with a row of foster children. A quiet sensitive boy called Robert appears to be a particular threat to the unnamed protagonist and calls for special measures. Years later, when he returns to visit his terminally ill mother, the line between who is the victim and who the offender starts to blur.
Switching between the 8-year old's voice and his 'grown-up' self with each chapter, the
Any Length
Jul 06, 2013 Any Length marked it as discarded
This book had great potential. But I refuse to read books now that are full of cruelty to animals.
When this book progressed to that I stoped reading.
I cannot recommend authors who have to resort to cruelty to animals to make their books life like or entertaining. All it does is give me nightmares. And I do not read to get nightmares.
No starts at all, even though I think I would have enjoyed the book, had it not been for the cruelty to animals.
Authors, please take note. Readers do not want that
Kathy Hiester
Rocks in the Belly moves between past to present in the life of a son who comes home to care for his dying mother. It soon becomes clear that the bond between them is broken. Mary, the mother took in foster boys while the son was a child and because of this he became a very resentful child as he feels that his mother pours adoration and care on the foster boys, which he feels belongs to him. The son eventually grows into an emotionally impaired man who now has control over his dying mother. This ...more
An engaging read!
I really, really enjoyed this!

It employs great use of voice. The characters are so unlikable because they are so well written. The slow evolution of the plot keeps you engaged. There was great use of vocab and language. Many times it was like trying to take your eyes away from a car wreck but you had to keep with it, enticed by many funny turns of phrase and humorous episodes.

The narrative is told in two voices - the central character as a child and as an adult.
This book contains probably the most despicable character I've ever read. His actions made me so angry and at one stage I wanted to hurl the book across the room. I'm glad I persisted because I was very moved by the mothers story. Her description of parenthood in a unsent letter to her son was heartbreaking. In keeping with his character I don't think the son ever gained the emotional maturity to appreciate the tragedy of life events that irreparably damaged the whole family.
The subject matter is confronting, and the author doesn't back away from difficult issues such as nature v nurture, parental responsibility & sibling rivalry. The alternating perspectives of the 8 year old and the 28 year old each inform the other. It is a testament to the author's skill that the novel remains engaging even though the protagonist is an unsympathetic figure. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style and the story itself.
This is an amazing book. Told in the voice of an 8 year old child, and then the same person 20 years later, it is an unflinching look at how children can be damaged. It is not an easy read (one reviewer commented that parts of it had to be read through splayed fingers), but is very well written. Highly recommended if you don't mind something that is dark and disturbing.
A great read but not a pleasurable one. Difficult characters but I wanted to stick with them and see them through. Liked the switch from the 8 year old voice to 28 year old, equally troubled and families become broken and life changes from a moment. I'll look out for jon Bauer again as believe this is his first novel. A writer with talent...
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Jon Bauer has written short stories and plays for stage and radio. Rocks in the Belly is his first novel and won the 2011 Indie Award for Best Debut Fiction. It was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.
More about Jon Bauer...
Summer Shorts The Best Australian Stories 2012 Kill Your Darlings, July 2012 Best Australian Stories 2013 Summer Shorts

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