A study in prejudice, honour and courage during the Great Depression of 1934. Fifteen-year-old Neil Allen found himself face to face with the fears and intolerances of the miners when a digger is found dead and an American man and his daughter are believed to have had a hand in the death.
Garry Disher was born in 1949 and grew up on his parents' farm in South Australia.
He gained post graduate degrees from Adelaide and Melbourne Universities. In 1978 he was awarded a creative writing fellowship to Stanford University, where he wrote his first short story collection. He travelled widely overseas, before returning to Australia, where he taught creative writing, finally becoming a full time writer in 1988. He has written more than 40 titles, including general and crime fiction, children's books, textbooks, and books about the craft of writing.
I love Garry Disher's work but this one does not have faults so much as what it omits set, as it is, in an identifiable historical context. His work contains no indigenous characters and, because everything else is so realistic and matches my sense of regional settlers in early Australian history - and via my childhood the sort of people they were - this, as I read more and more of his books, is becoming more and more uncomfortably obvious. I have now read a number of his works and intend to continue reading them simply because I love them. Also hoping however that in those as yet unread I will find something that will widen its focus on who was out there on those lands to include the ones missing - as I admit my current list of books of his that I have read is incomplete. First Nation people were there including on the goldfields. In Australian fiction specifically - and cultural life generally - what our creatives include and omit from their work has the power to influence the souls of both non Australian and Australian readers in how Australia is viewed - and who is valued and acknowledged and who is not, or deliberately concealed. The author is an academic and his field is Australian history, he includes in this work a strong Asian character and two Americans. He knows who else was there.
Delicately using language of insult and stereotype to break conceptions of prejudice in young minds, Garry Disher's novel for young adults explores a post-World War I goldfield through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy. Various forms of bullying and sizing-up of not-too-familiar others are explored. Much of this behaviour is in the realm of a boy's sense of expectation about becoming a man. But most remarkably the sense of certainty that might be expected as a sign of maturity is put below the greater maturity of doubt and the ability to continue observing before judging.
A short, simple tale, enjoyable but not entirely satisfying due to a lack of balance in audience and length. The narrator and two other main characters are about 15 years of age: the tone is suited to a younger audience, perhaps 11-12, though a few passages are appropriate for a more mature reader. This lack of equilibrium is also evident in the narrative, which unfolds steadily, then rushes to a climax and resolution in a few pages. The book feels a little like a stretched-out short story, but also hints at a lot of loose ends that demand to be followed through. Perhaps a longer novel would have been more fulfilling?
There is plenty of interest here for the student writer. The use of present tense and first-person narrator is expertly handled, and Disher is a master of location. The reader quickly gains a sense of the harsh mallee conditions, and the quiet desperation of the goldminers. None of the characters are drawn in great detail, partly due to the brevity of the book, and partly because everything is described from the narrator's point of view. It succeeds as a short rite-of-passage story, despite the misgiving outlined above.
A short novel, that never really catches the audience. It is an easy read, but some of the things written about would be more appropriate for an older audience. However, an older audience would not be captivating by this novel. It is set in the 1930s Australia in the goldfields, and follows the life of Neil a fifteen year old, trying to make sense of his new life.
Set in australia in the early 1900's, Disher gives a child's perspective of family, friendships, change of situation/circumstances, the differences betwseen the have's and have nots, and prospecting for gold.