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3.48  ·  Rating details ·  90 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Shortlisted for the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award.

He shouldn’t have a life he never asked for and be expected to love men. With their problems never spoken outward. And childhood trauma and family issues. Men wanting to be held or hold.

Markus Bello’s life has stalled. Living in a small country town, mourning the death of his best friend, Grayson, Ma
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 30th 2018 by Scribe Publications
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Average rating 3.48  · 
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Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
“They were sketch-like oil paintings, mostly of men: some naked, some clothed, some together, some alone. There was nothing provocative or progressive, and Markus had only been able to tell that they were men because he’d been looking hard enough through the restless paint-strokes, which Georges’s deliberate hand had seemingly placed in an attempt to censor the truth. They made Markus smile. He wanted to get in between the layers of colour, where the tones shifted and changed and intermingl
Jack Bell
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: LGBT, literary fiction
Remember the name Jay Carmichael. Believe you me: this kid is going places.

Ironbark isn't for everyone. It's dense, it's non-linear, it moves at a glacial pace; but the prose--oh, the prose... Every line is packed with immense imagery, and plays with the both the evocation and omission of emotion so deftly that you don't even realize how incredibly emotional the entire thing is until you notice how deeply it has its hooks in you.

The plot isn't groundbreaking -- queer coming-of-age within the co
Wolfram-Jaymes von Keesing
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer
The only thing stuck in Markus’s life is himself. The people around him provide opportunities to deal with Grayson’s death, or move on, or walk away from everything. And I feel at some point these characters have asked Markus if he’s staying or going. But Markus lost someone he loves, and he doesn’t want to deal with it because that means letting go of the one thing he cared about. So he’s stuck here between making peace with Grayson’s death and clinging to it by collecting the memories he and G ...more
Scribe Publications
Jay Carmichael's Ironbark does the extraordinary. It achieves what we readers want from the best of fiction: to tell a story anew, and to capture a world in all its wonder, ugliness, tenderness, and cruelty. This is a novel of coming of age and of grief that astonishes us by its wisdom and by its compassion. It's a work of great and simple beauty, so good it made me jealous. And grateful.
Christos Tsiolkas

Jay Carmichael approaches the world as a poet, from an angle that is all his own. He reveals
Aug 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I sometimes fall into the trap of reading a book because people have spoken about how affecting and moving it is. I should be alerted by words in reviews like poignant, beautiful, poetic and tender.
There's nothing wrong with this book. It just didn't appeal to me. Lovely words, deep messages and symbolism, doesn't entertain me. I decided some time ago to avoid the award winners and the books that put prose ahead of a decent story.
There was a lot of symbolism in this book and it was quite beauti
Jan 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book appeared on lists of various well-known writers as "the" book to read this summer. Perhaps I was in the wrong frame of mind but I was totally uninterested in the main character Markus, a young man living in a small country town. He is grieving the death of his best friend Grayson and struggling with his own sexual identity. It all sounded interesting, but for me it was not and I gave it away at the half-way mark. Perhaps that is why I missed the explanation of the botanical and scienti ...more
Doug Reyes
Aug 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
So this book is beautiful...

This novel is a meditation on grief. Everything about the style of writing sets a palpable and intoxicating tone of melancholy. Even the repeated citation of the scientific names of plants and animals reinforces Marcus‘s desperate need to cope, as some people recite multiplication tables to deal with anxiety.

The characters are real, and sympathetic. The writing is frequently stunning; quotable lines pepper the text. The tone captures the dry and sun-bleached landscape
Markus lives outside a small, drought-ridden country town. His love for fellow school boy Grayson is unrequited.
The novel is split into two halves: "Two weeks after", and "On the day". To disclose what happens on the day would be a spoiler. Spanning several years, but not told chronologically, manages to keep The Reader slightly unsettled. Adding to this effect is the author's use of what I would call an idiosyncratic bogan vernacular. What blew me away reading this is the imagery the author sum
Morgan Miller-Portales
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shortlisted for the 2016 Victorian Premier's Literary Award, ‘Ironbark’ by Jay Carmichael is an elliptical and a beautiful portrayal of adolescent alienation and masculinity in rural Australia. In sparse and poetic prose, the author immerses us in the concerns of an oppressive small town and the confusion and life as a gay teenager in a world where toxic masculinity reigns supreme. Each of the main protagonist’s destructive silences is a profound parable and a portrait of grief and loss. A distr ...more
Benjamin Farr
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, lgbtqi
The strength of this book lies in the unsaid, the untold; the gaps where we bottle emotions and feelings inside rather than reveal our authentic selves. This coming of age novel explores adolescent sexuality and the isolation of living in regional Australia, while navigating through the traumas of grief and the conflicts of male identity. Jay Carmichael is definitely an author to watch.
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A moving 'coming of age' novel...and with Markus being gay adds another dimension to the prejudices he confronts. Very well written. A simple story told with compassion that draws in the reader...just what a reader seeks. ...more
Sep 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
I wanted to enjoyit but way too much going into detail of everything. I perfer a stroy that moves on.
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Devastatingly beautiful. The real beauty is in what is left unsaid, what is absent. Anyone who has loved someone but hasn’t been able to tell them will get it.
we need more aussie fiction like this. carmichael absolutely nailed the choking toxicity of masculinity and sexuality in the australian country, and that feeling of claustrophobia it creates; only knowing to be a caricature of manliness, because you know you can be nothing else, and simply not knowing how to be anything else either. i can't stop thinking about this book, it really was something else ...more
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