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The Gulf

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  352 ratings  ·  71 reviews
"He found an egg at the park so he incubated it and this tortoise hatched out."

Skye’s sixteen, and her mum’s got yet another new boyfriend. Trouble is, Jason’s bad news. Really bad. Now Mum’s quit her job and they’re all moving north to Port Flinders, population nobody.

"That's a Southern Right Whale. They have the largest balls of any animal in the world."

She’d do anything
Published May 30th 2017 by Picador Australia
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Anna Spargo-Ryan Hi Deborah :) It's a tortoise - the peculiarity of it will be revealed in the story, I suspect (the chap in the book believes it's a Horsfield's torto…moreHi Deborah :) It's a tortoise - the peculiarity of it will be revealed in the story, I suspect (the chap in the book believes it's a Horsfield's tortoise). Thanks for your interest! Anna(less)
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Average rating 4.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  352 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written book about a teenage girl struggling to protect herself in the midst of an unstable family. Skye is 16 and her bother 10 when her single mother, Linda takes up with an aggressive man called Jason. He doesn't like kids and is not happy that Skye and Ben come as a package with Linda but moves the family from Adelaide to a small coastal town where he carries out his obviously shady 'business'. Skye narrates the story and becomes more and more desperate to escape as her ...more
Living in Adelaide, sixteen-year-old Skye was in high school, while her ten-year-old brother Ben was in primary. Their mum Linda worked at a bank and the three of them were a team. Until Jason moved in. Their mother gradually took more notice of him, and less notice of her children so in the end it was Skye making sure Ben was fed and ready for school each morning. But it was when the decision was made for the three of them to move to Port Flinders with Jason – who didn’t want the kids around an ...more
Although I liked this book, I almost gave up on it a couple of times because I was finding it to be almost unrelentingly depressing. Almost. The saving grace was the relationship between 16yo Skye and her 10yo brother, Ben. Skye would (and does) do just about anything to protect her precious little brother. It made me think a lot about me and my own brother, also 6 years younger. But where Ben was an adorable little weirdo, my brother was just a pain in the backside!

I came to this from reading t
Michael Livingston
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written book that deals with family violence and dysfunction with nuance, honesty and heart. The two central characters, Skye and Ben are children caught up in their mother's bad relationship and are drawn so perfectly that I keep catching myself wondering what they're up to now. The story unfolds gradually, with the dread and sadness ratcheting up, but the strength and love between the siblings stops this from becoming an utterly bleak experience. This is a really strong second bo ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I bought The Gulf as a pre-sale after finishing Anna Spargo-Ryan's first novel, The Paper House, in just a couple of days. I love how The Gulf has been written with such control and timing; although it's clear where the story is heading right from the beginning, it never verges on becoming cliche or melodramatic, which makes for compelling reading. Again, I got through this book very quickly.

I work with families like Skye's and I felt sick with recognition as I turned each page. All of the chara
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Anna Spargo-Ryan, you have done it again! This latest novel is even better than The Paper House (my favourite book of 2016). In the few days it took to read (I would have finished in one sitting if I'd had time), I went to bed with a sickening worry for the little boy in the novel (I actually lost sleep over him) - that is how well Spargo writes her characters. Spargo never tells us about the characters, she shows them to us; so fleshed out and life-like that I wanted to pull the little boy from ...more
Cass Moriarty
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
The cover of Anna Spargo-Ryan’s new novel, The Gulf (Picador books Pan Macmillan Australia 2017) is instructive about what is inside its pages: a large, empty beach made out of torn, collaged paper, stuck together with sticky tape; on the shore, two impossibly tiny figures, holding hands, their shadows bigger than themselves. It is a close metaphor for the narrative: the two vulnerable siblings, Skye and Ben, holding their own against the vast emptiness of the lives surrounding them, all patched ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Voice and character. Anna Spargo-Ryan just gets it. The Gulf is a tender, heartbreaking and sometimes scary story of siblings navigating their way through their mother's poor decisions. Skye is everything I remember about 16 and Ben is the epitome of a 10 year old boy (and I know, I have one).

Despite an emotive and distressing subject matter, the writing is just perfect, never veering into melodrama or sentimentality.

Don't ever stop writing Anna.

Helen King
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, australian
It's hard not to love a novel written with so much heart and sensitivity - while managing not to step into sentimentality. It wasn't, at times, enjoyable, because the life some of the characters lived was a cruel one, but it was a good read probably because of this. I felt a real insight into what challenges some people face, and also how important it is to have some good people around (I shudder to think if there hadn't been). A worthy follow up to The Paper House.
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
While I quite enjoyed Spargo-Ryan’s debut, The Paper House, I couldn’t get into this one, narrated by a decidedly inarticulate teenage girl. I missed the gorgeous sentences and insights peppering the first novel. Bailed a third of the way in.
Eugenia (Genie In A Book)
If there's a book you have to read this year, it's this one.

I haven't been this moved by a book in a long time. Anna Spargo-Ryan's depiction of the children inadvertently swept up in a dangerously dysfunctional family is achingly real, her writing flawless. I always find it interesting where adult fiction features teen protagonists, and here reading Skye's story as she does anything to protect her ten year-old brother Ben from their harsh reality was no exception. Though this novel deals with so
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian, reviewed
I meant to do a proper review of this, but I forgot and now the only thing I can think to say is how wondrously beautiful The Gulf was. I loved it.
Louise Omer
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
A cracking read.
Sixteen-year-old Skye's mission to protect and care for her ten-year-old brother becomes increasingly fraught as their Mum takes them to live with an aggressive and unstable man. This book is carried by the delicate and rich portrayal of Ben, the little boy who loves reciting facts about animals. It's also a pleasure to read for anyone who grew up in the Australian suburbs: full of iconography like sausage sizzles, supermarket specials and footy at the local oval.
Anna Spargo-Ry
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: echuca-library
This felt like a story that the author must have experienced, such was the almost matter of fact way that the story unfurled. I wonder if it might become a reading text for senior students at some time . I enjoyed the book from the beginning especially the Australian content and the "tell it as it was" story. Sadly I'm sure a lot of kids have to endure similar situations and it made me grateful for my own upbringing.
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Gulf is just gorgeous. It is tough. The characters are really well constructed. I loved it.

Spargo-Ryan creates a sense of foreboding from the earliest chapters - in one scene, narrator Skye walks through a storm drain with her younger brother and his friend Amir. It was that scene that really hit me with a sense of dread, that something terrible was going to happen. And terrible things do happen, but not in the way that I expected them to. And, as much as anything, the book is about overcom
Oct 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Realised I hadn't rated this book yet. Another superb novel by Anna, this time taking on the insidious nature of domestic violence and abuse via the eye of the 16 year old narrator.

Don't be a genre snob and let the classification of Young Adult put you off reading this book, some of the best fiction in Australia today is happening in the YA genre and this is one of the best examples. 5 stars plus.
Tracey Lee
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We all think we remember what it is like to be a teen … but the genius of Anna Spargo-Ryan is to climb into the mind of teen girl in desperate circumstances, and to give her a voice that is neither infantalised nor preternaturally mature. Equally skilled is the use of detailed descriptions of natural and built environments to evoke and deepen our sense of what the characters are experiencing, while people's true natures are revealed in a tiny gesture. This is quite a different tale from her firs ...more
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
A newspaper review alleged that this was young adult fiction suitable for adults, but that same review also called the dog in this book "George" (his name is Murray), so take that as you will.

The Gulf is the story of a teenaged girl with a terrible mother and an eccentric younger brother straight from central casting. The audience is supposed to be more worldly than Skye, who knows that things in her freshly relocated life are wrong, but not precisely how wrong.

The Gulf is slightly unrealistic u
Michelle Barraclough
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another beautifully written book by Anna Spargo-Ryan that captured what it is to be a 16 year old girl - confused, powerless, everything so strongly felt. Remember those days?
The way Skye overcame the challenges she faced with such quiet determination driven by a keen sense of justice had me cheering her on. I loved her character so much; she was drawn so sparingly without diving into melancholy or self-obsession.
The Gulf also made me think deeply about my own parenting - how my actions (even j
Katie Farnsworth
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is breathtakingly beautiful, funny, tender and sad. The prose is stunning, direct, and evocative. I loved the dialogue - it rang so true and I think that is partly what makes this book so brilliant. Everything about it feels real. 'The Gulf' was definitely hard to read in parts - gritty and raw but I cared so much for the characters. They will stay with me for a very long time.
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I follow Spargo-Ryan on social media and know she writes openly about mental illness and often confronts life with no-holds barred brutal honesty… something reflected in this heart-wrenching and heart-warming book.

I was captivated from the opening sentence… bewitched by our delightful narrator Skye and her young brother Ben.

Spargo-Ryan isn’t fluffily descriptive (something I appreciate) but placed me firmly there… into their world, and she very cleverly used Skye’s often-impassive observations a
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am so glad I chose to read this one by Spargo-Ryan (I hadn't loved her debut novel 'The Paper House' as much as everyone else seemed to love it) For me 'The Gulf' is a beautiful tale about the strength of the bond between siblings, about a family struggling to remain together and a tortoise... Spargo-Ryan has given us two rawly innocent characters in Skye and Ben, their story will seep into your heart and you will fight for them as they experience situations and make choices children should ne ...more
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh wow, Anna has such a beautiful yet sparse way of writing and a real gift for creating characters. An intense but ultimately hopeful novel, at times devastating but always compelling. She slowly builds the suspense so I couldn’t put it down, and yet I was scared to keep reading because I was so invested in the two main characters, Skye and Ben.
Anna also nails the landscape and sense of the Gulf country in South Australia. Despite being NSW born and bred, the Yorke Peninsula is a special place
The Twins
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a beautiful and gentle book - it has been a long time that a book has got under my skin like this one. The description of the characters is just beautiful, the story line heartbreaking. I was living and breathing this book, one of those that stays with you all day and you dream about at night...I was Skye and Raf looked like a teenage Chris Hemsworth.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Like in The Paper House, Anna Spargo-Ryan has created a beautiful novel with poetic prose and very real, relatable characters. Ben, with his youth and inexhaustible facts, was the perfect contrast to Skye, weighed down by her mother's decisions and desperate to protect herself and her brother. I loved this!
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As with The Paper House, The Gulf is incredibly written and moving, exploring the very real and difficult parts of life. I reread paragraphs and lines sometimes just because they were so beautifully formed, and can’t wait for Spargo-Ryan’s next work.
Sarah McCallan
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely beautiful
Stephanie Betsarkis
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nothing has ever captured the Australian voice so well as this. Love love love.
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Great summer read, I'd give it 3.5 but no half ⭐️
Rebecca Freeborn
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just an amazing book. So raw and genuine. I can't stop thinking about it.
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Anna Spargo-Ryan is an award-winning Melbourne writer. She is the author of THE PAPER HOUSE (Picador 2016) and THE GULF (Picador 2017). Her new book, a work of nonfiction about mental illness, will be published by Picador in 2021.

Anna won the 2016 Horne Prize for her essay "The Suicide Gene". You can find her other work in Best Australian Essays, Kill Your Darlings, Meanjin, Overland, The Lifted B

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