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The Ballad of Desmond Kale

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  94 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Hardcover, 638 pages
Published 2005 by Knopf
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3.39  · 
Rating details
 ·  94 ratings  ·  21 reviews

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Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A very slow going book.

This book is taking place in the forming years of the NSW Australian colony when wool was a very important resource, and a harsh competition is ensuing to breed sheeps so as to create a better wool.

As a consequence there is a lot of information in the book about wool and techniques for improving it, which may be interesting in some quirky way. Similarly interesting is the unique or perhaps archaic English language the Author either invented for the purpose or found throug
Apr 22, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, aussie
Hmmm, ask yourself "How much do you like sheep?" because there is a lot of sheep talk in this book. I personally have no great love affair with wool or the tasty four legged friends that it grows I felt a wee bit put off by the passion with which it was discussed. This book is epic in scale and setting. I found the syntax and grammar unusual and difficult at times to read. I found myself losing track of the plot as well, perhaps I am just not used to the historical novel genre. In short ...more
Geoff Wooldridge
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger McDonald, winner of the 2006 Miles Franklin Award, is a woolly sheep story. Wool and sheep feature prominently in the 636 pages of this Australian colonial yarn.

Set in the early years of the New South wales penal settlement, the eponymous hero of the story, Desmond Kale, a rogue who is rescued by accomplices following a 50 lash flogging, is something of an expert in breeding sheep that grow the finest quality wool.

His nemesis is the eccentric, cruel and vindic
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
A difficult book to read. It wasn’t an enjoyable read, In fact it was quite laborious, hence the time it took me to really plough through it. The storyline had promise but I found the writing style meant it had to be read slowly and there was no real plot, just a long meandering story. I thought the book could be improved if it focused on telling the story of one particular character, whereas the book seemed to be telling the story of several characters but none in particular which resulted in i ...more
Jun 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Roger McDonald is an author whose work straddles the rise of the internet, so it’s his later work which tends to be reviewed online while reviews of his earlier work are hard to find. I’ve been reading his novels for long time, but all I’ve reviewed here is
•1915, A novel (McDonald’s debut novel, 1979)
•The Slap (1996)
•When Colts Ran (2010)
•The Following (2013), and
•Shearers’ Motel (, non-fiction, 1993)

The rest of his oeuvre is part of a mini-project of mine, to review earlier works by favourite a
What makes this novel is its cast of larger-than-life characters. The obvious standout character is the wildly eccentric 'flogging Parson', Matthew Stanton, whose obsessive pursuit of the titular character, Desmond Kale, is one of the main driver's of the book's overall narrative. Stanton is a fantastic villain, and Roger McDonald has done well to bring him to life. In one scene we see him through the eyes of another character, 'Ugly' Tom Rankin:

"Rankin looked at the bulging eyed Stanton in his
Matt C
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most engaging books I have ever read, with a large cast of gritty, unique characters each engaged in a gripping struggle against authority, dispossession, the environment, inner demons or each other.
The first 60-odd pages were a shock to the system due to the language used, but with the language learned the novel then flowed with a beautiful rhythm which suspended reality and carried me off into the amazing and alien world being depicted.
Historical details about the colony and
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
Roger McDonald's 2006 Miles Franklin Award-winner certainly takes some getting into - the (faux?) eighteenth century style is initially a challenge but once the reader becomes accustomed to it it really adds to the flavour of the book and even allows for some quite subtle humour; and the pace - contrary to what some of the endorsements on the back cover say - is very slow. But the novel is so rich with character and incident - almost Dickensian in that sense - that the pace scarcely matters as i ...more
Perhaps I just don't "get" some literature.
I really wanted to enjoy this book and really tried but it became a labour which I could not love and has been shelved as an unfinishable.
I really cant be bothered reading paragraphs and then thinking " what has just happened , or what is this or that person actually saying ?
The story synopsis is enticing but the telling of same is all too intricate and convoluted.
One thing though that confused me is his constant reference to the settlement at Botany B
Simon Jones
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book for the connection it made between the Australian landscape of today and the events that changed it during colonisation. Slow maybe but rich in detail putting you right there in the paddock, the cell and the homestead. And now I know there is more to the Golden Fleece than western district petrol stations of yesterday.
Nicki Markus
Sep 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-historical
This is a hard one for me to review.
On the one hand I found the storyline interesting, but on the otherhand I really didn't like the writing style at all and so had to force my way through it somewhat; though it did get easy as I got used to it.

So I give it 3 stars - interesting tale but the style was rather too ponderous. Not bad for $5 in a sale though.
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book was a little difficult to get into but one the story emerged it was terrific, and I was sad to finish it. A tale of early settlement in Australia, it provided a real insight into the life and times of colonial settlement. Great read, great story.
Derren Foster
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
A rollicking tale of the the early years of the colony and the power of agriculture at that time. The back half of the story is certainly told at a different pace to the front and the author's imagination certainly goes up a notch as well. Overall, a long but enjoyable read.
Anthony Whalen
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
A great story - gives the reader a real sense of what life was like in the old Sydney colony. Thoughtful consideration is given to what it must have been like bringing European culture and technologies (and sheep!) into an alien environment.
Dec 18, 2010 rated it liked it
I'm not sure I understood it all but I'm sure the concentration I expended was helpful for my brain. Very dense and captivating in the depiction of early Australia.
Tried three times with this. Evidently don't like sheep enough to persist.
Doug Riley
Nov 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Excellent story of early Sydney highlighting the rivalry betweeb MacArtur and Samuel Marsden
Pam Ela
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
Dont like the style much
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Australian historical fiction, especially
Loved it.
Dec 30, 2011 rated it did not like it
I can't read on. This book is soooo dull.
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Feb 08, 2015
Jacob Webb
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Sep 13, 2016
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Jul 15, 2015
rated it it was amazing
Sep 28, 2012
David J
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Apr 21, 2016
Yvonne Warren
rated it it was ok
Jul 07, 2013
rated it it was ok
Aug 01, 2013
Mary Addison
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Apr 25, 2018
Felicity Cresswell
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Dec 31, 2013
Alison Byrne
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Nov 15, 2017
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