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Black Rock White City

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  1,534 ratings  ·  206 reviews
Black Rock White City is a novel about the damages of war, the limits of choice, and the hope of love.

During a hot Melbourne summer Jovan’s cleaning work at a bayside hospital is disrupted by acts of graffiti and violence becoming increasingly malevolent. For Jovan the mysterious words that must be cleaned away dislodge the poetry of the past. He and his wife Suzana were
Paperback, 246 pages
Published April 2015 by Transit Lounge Australia
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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 ·  1,534 ratings  ·  206 reviews

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Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
A husband and wife flee Sarajevo to find hope in Melbourne. They are traumatized by war. Once in their new country they remain locked in, limited and trapped. The story follows their thoughts about this new life as contrasted to their memories. Separately, they take their knowledge and use their instincts in an effort to find a way forward. This can be hazardous but always a preferable option to what they left behind. They place limits on themselves while coming to realise it’s perhaps more unwi ...more
Roger Brunyate
Sep 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries-kinda
The Pain of Words

That's "Patric" with an accent over the c, pronounced something like "Patrich." I assume that the author, like the characters in his debut novel, winner of Australia's Miles Franklin Award, is an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, or at least the son of one. The title links "Black Rock," an area of Melbourne, to "White City," which is apparently the literal translation of Belgrade. Patric's protagonist, Jovan Brakochevich, works as a janitor in a Melbourne hospital; his wife
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australian, male, gift, known
This is not an easy book to read. It is both distressing, and elliptical. It brushes past moments of trauma and you expect the big reveal, and then it turns away and heads in another direction. There are moments of lyrical beauty, there is horror, there are awkward, angry, shattered, just-trying-to-live characters. Nothing is simple. Nothing is heartwarming. Your effort will be repaid.
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it

This book was tough in many ways, not least of which is how to fairly review it.
Reading it completed a goal I had set for myself of reading the five books making up the 2016 Miles-Franklin shortlist. Looking back I see I have resolutely given these books fairly ho-hum reviews which would seem to suggest that this list was not my best route into Australian fiction this year.
On the plus side I do think Black Rock White City is the correct winner as it pushed my reading boundaries and had
Jun 17, 2016 rated it liked it
I picked this up initially because it is short listed for the Miles Franklin award and I was curious. I'm not really sure what to make of it and I don't think I really enjoyed it. Mostly it was a depressing read. I suppose it couldn't help but be that. Jovan and Suzana have fled war torn Bosnia after the death of their two children. In Australia as refugees they have menial lives, both working as cleaners, barely existing. Both had taught at the university in Sarajevo now it seemed their lives w ...more
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Holy Shit! Bravo Australian emerging writers! First novel? How can Girl At War be so acclaimed when this book exists?

Give him all the Australian Awards and get the Americans and Europeans onto him ASAP!
Caroline Barron
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I’m off to Melbourne to catch up with My-Friend-Jarrod next month and what better way to ready myself than to indulge in new Melbourne fiction. And my goodness. What fiction this is. Five, oh five, oh five glorious and shining stars, Mr. Poetic-Patric.

He can’t speak to any of it because it isn’t about words anymore. It’s about another existence. Neither of them is sure about the present but this is some kind of afterlife (17).

On the surface the book is about Serbian immigrants, Jovan and Suzana
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a new Australian novel about a Serbian couple who have migrated after the Bosnian war. Jovan, former poet and academic now works as a cleaner at Sandringham hospital. Suzanah works as a carer. They are deeply damaged and dysfunctional as a result of the events of the war. The novel explores the extent to which people can ‘recover’ from tragedy and what happens to relationships in the process. This focus plays out against a storyline where an anonymous ”graffiti artist” is playing havoc w ...more
Lesley Moseley
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it

I am such a fussy reader, that 4 stars is very high praise for me. Stunning, is the word that seems to describe the experience of reading such a 'real' portrait of several damaged but resilient, souls.
Helen King
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most powerful books I've read. It's set in a framework which is somewhat exaggerated (at least I hope so) regarding horrific events in a suburban hospital in Melbourne. Although this part is a little over the top, it provides a structure for the more interesting, and wrenching, aspects of the book. The story of a couple who come to Australia escaping from Sarajevo, including their back story which is slowly revealed, and the unsettling aspects of trying to make a new life here ...more
Julianne Negri
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it

To be honest I’m still recovering from finishing this book. It sucked me in and churned me up then spat me out. I felt I had to scrape myself off the floor and piece myself together again. It really is an extraordinary novel by an extremely talented writer.

Patric uses images and characters like intricate building blocks to build a monument to human experience and then uses words like a wrecking ball. He constructs and devastates in equal measure. Blisters you then heals you then scrapes off the
Jennifer (JC-S)
May 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: librarybooks
‘Strange how little his body shows the evidence of his life.’

Jovan and Suzana have escaped the horrors of Sarajevo by seeking refuge in Australia. For them, life in Melbourne is nothing like their old lives in pre-war Sarajevo: once academics, they are now both cleaners. Jovan cleans at a bayside hospital in Melbourne and Suzana cleans houses. The death of their two children in Sarajevo causes them both, in different ways, great pain.

During a hot Melbourne summer, Jovan finds his cleaning work
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I’m always really pleased when an author makes the leap from producing acclaimed short stories to writing a full length novel. (I know, I know, short stories are not a lesser form, but they are often part of the pathway to publishing novels – and novels are what I like to read). A.S. Patrić is an ‘edgy’ writer, and IMO the longer form of Black Rock White City allows that edginess to flourish in a way that his shorter works have hinted at. (See my reviews of Las Vegas for Vegans, and Bruno Kramze ...more
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a really, really good book. The lone male on the Franklin Shortlist and I think, if anyone can better Charlotte Wood, Patric will be the one.
Refugees from Saravejo, academics Jovan and Suzana, are now settled in bayside Melbourne, both working as cleaners (coincidentally Jovan in the hospital where I had my tonsils out as a child). As they try to rebuild their lives their past trauma is quietly revealed as they are both dealing with new challenges. Don't want to give anything away but Pa
Apr 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Deeply impressive book about trauma, war, migration and marriage that rewards close attention. There's a layer to the plot I am not quite sure was necessary but I might change my mind as the book settles and lingers - the author clearly knows what he is doing. Some sections - especially towards the end - were so powerful and cleverly done that I had to read them a few times to properly grasp what had just happened. I hope Oz Lit rises to the occasion and throws lots of prizes at this author and ...more
Catherine Davison
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I don't understand why this book won the Miles Franklin. I found it clumsy with sentences which needed to be read twice to find the gist, and I'm not talking about metaphorical meaning, simply syntax. It was not credible, at times it felt as though Patric was just cobbling together any and every observation he'd jotted down in his writer's notebook. Sorry, no lyricism to be found, an ugly book which I wanted to like but couldn't.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
I like delving into a literary read, and this book did have moments of beautiful writing. But it was mainly self indulgent, navel gazing attempts at creative prose. A good literary book still needs a story that grabs you, and progresses forward, and has a point. It's a pity this book doesn't succeed, because the refugee story needs to be told.
Oct 07, 2016 rated it liked it
A unique look at the migrant experience but the graffiti subplot felt superfluous. A decent read, but I'm not sure it was worthy of taking out this year's Miles Franklin Award.
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
The author tries a little too hard for my taste, without achieving what seemed to be his aim. I didn't find that it evoked anything in particular, nor was it very interesting.
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
With that extended conflict known as the Yugoslav Wars (1991-2001) now over for more than a decade, we are starting to see books written about them. I’ve reviewed two on this blog to date, Aminatta Forna’s novel The hired man (2013) (my review) on the Croatian War of Independence, and Olivera Simić’s memoir Surviving peace (2014) (my review) on the Bosnian War. AS Patrić’s Miles Franklin Award winning novel, Black rock white city, (2016), which also draws from the Bosnian War, now makes three.

Mar 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
The only reason I finished this was because it was a relatively short novel. What a disappointment. I’d been wanting to read it for some time as it had been so heavily lauded, and the subject matters that were behind it (Bosnian conflict, Bosnian community in Australia, etc) were some I wasn’t really familiar with and so was eager to get a perspective on it and learn more, as a lot of the aforementioned “lauding” I’d come across had noted.

In a nutshell, the husband and wife have fled Bosnia and
A.S. Patric has written a book that is so much more than a refugee story; it is about the total annihilation of two people and their gradual remaking of themselves. Concurrent with their contemporary lives in Australia Patric slowly reveals the history of Jovan and Suzanna before the breakup of Yugoslavia and the obliteration of their old way of living. We get a glimpse of their despair when they are in the refugee camp and then their final disintegration as more events that are horrific take pl ...more
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-reviews
A.S. Patric’s Black Rock White City is set in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs in 1999 and tells a story not particularly common in Australian fiction — that of European migrants setting up a new life for themselves in a foreign land. In this case those migrants are Yugoslavian refugees who fled the Bosnian War in the mid-1990s.

The story largely revolves around married Serbian couple, Jovan and Suzan Brakochevich, whose two young children died in a UN refugee camp en route to Australia. Five years on
Shane Murphy
I really do admire anyone writing a book, so unless it’s God-awful or offends me in some way I have trouble giving anything less than three stars. But this one is very close to getting two.

It starts off really promisingly with an interesting lead character – Jovan, a Serb refugee from Bosnia living in Melbourne who paradoxically was a poet in his own language but whose English is terrible – and an almost-fun caper involving coded graffiti in a hospital, and Jovan’s involvement in it. Alongside t
This is well worth the Miles Franklin. It is impressive for its language, poetry, respect for refugees, understanding of mental health, life in the working class suburb of Frankston and for recognising a person is not defined by their job. Every character in this book is there for a reason.
Jovan and Suzana have fled war torn Bosnia after their experiences in Sarajevo including rape and the death of their two children. In Melbourne they take menial jobs as cleaners. At the hospital Jovan works at
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was terrific!
I was born in Sandringham Hospital and have worked in the Bayside area a few years now so it was lovely to read a novel set in parts of Melbourne I feel a little familiar with.
My main enjoyment was settling in to experience the experience of an emigrated couple who following tragedy seem to be just missing each other in passing whilst living in same house. They misinterpret each other, their communication is out of whack, and ex literature professor now cleaner
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding, amazing, heart-wrenching, so true to life and with a tremendous punch at the end.
Jovan and Suzana are Serbian refugees now living in Melbourne after the trauma of being in a refugee camp. Both were academics, now they work as cleaners, with Jovan working as a janitor at Sandringham Hospital. Struggling as a couple anyway, their world is rocked by the intervention of others.
It is a story of tragedy and loss, of bewilderment in a strange land with strange people, and of the universal
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a truely frightening read about the Balkan war and the aftermath for the survivors on all sides of the conflict. Even as refugees who has found a new ‘safe’ home the mental trauma persists. Patric explains this so well...
Of course the box doesn’t disappear. It will always be exactly where it was- in the centre of their lives. It is made of the thinnest sheets of porous material, the most fragile membrane, leaking without warning at any point.
Jan 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
I did not enjoy this book at all. It was all over the place & hard to follow. I seriously struggled through 164pgs but frankly I have many more, better constructed books to read. Not sure how it won miles franklin award but like art, books are very subjective. This one is not for me so I will happily pass it on so someone else who can make sense of it and possibly enjoy it. ☹ ...more
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best debut novels I've read in years, BRWC is a testament not only to the Australian immigrant experience but to the very craft of storytelling.
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A. S. Patric is an award winning writer and author of Black Rock White City, listed as one of the best novels of 2015 by The Australian and The Australian Book Review. It has been highly commended by the judges of the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2016. He is also the author of Las Vegas for Vegans, a story collection shortlisted in the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards. His debut book is The ...more

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