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Simpson Returns: A novella

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  51 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Ninety years after they were thought to have died heroically in the Great War, the stretcher-bearer Simpson and his donkey journey through country Victoria, performing minor miracles and surviving on offerings left at war memorials. They are making their twenty-ninth, and perhaps final, attempt to find the country’s famed Inland Sea.

On the road north from Melbourne, Simpso
135 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Text Publishing
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Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Simpson Returns is a novella by award-winning Australian author, Wayne Macauley. Simpson and his donkey: those lauded heroes of the Great War. Part of the ANZAC legend. Died there in Schrapnel Gully in 1915. Or did he? Because, almost ninety years later, here is Jack Simpson, with his donkey Murphy, travelling around country Victoria, on his twenty-ninth attempt to find the Inland Sea. He’s doing this on behalf of (the now long-dead) Lasseter.

Yet again, he leaves Mrs Fowler’s garage in Richmond
Text Publishing
‘Wayne Macauley’s novella is a limpid meditation on the nature of selflessness and compassion, juxtaposed with striking, bleak, often piteous tales from those our nation tends to grind underfoot. It compels us to reflect on the gap between aspiration and action, on why the ideals Simpson embodies in our culture don’t play a larger role in everyday life.’

‘By placing Simpson in a modern context, Macauley is able to ask questions about who we really are as a nation, about compassion and hypocri
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
A little gem of a parable, worth reading simply for the pertinent ending.
In interesting novella, if a bit depressing and not fully formed characters drawn from those characters that are 'healed' by Simpson and his donkey.
Loved the premise but the delivery needed work.
Jaclyn Crupi
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love Wayne Macauley’s particular style of satire and this is funny and heartbreaking. Our national myths deserve his razor-sharp satirical eye.
Recently shortlisted for the 2020 Victorian Premier's Literary Award, Simpson Returns is Wayne Macauley's sixth novel. Here on the blog I've reviewed Blueprints for a Barbed-wire Canoe (2004); The Cook (2011); Demons (2014); Some Tests (2017); and I have Caravan Story (2007) on the TBR somewhere too. If I had to pick a favourite it would be a toss-up between The Cook and Some Tests, but all these novels are disconcertingly relevant satires that nail modern pretensions and preoccupati ...more
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
(3.5 rating) Overall, the concept of Macauley's novella was stunning in its creativity and his courage to satirise one of our iconic Australian legends - that of Simpson and his donkey, WWI in Gallipoli. It was when I'd finished his short text that I'd fully realised how clever it was regarding our current politics, social mores, moral values, and the messages the author was implanting about honesty, national identity, and our humanity itself. However, the whole was superior to its parts and I s ...more
Jul 09, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting premise which to me gives the message that we can help people by really listening to them.
This novella provides a roller-coaster of emotions as Simpson interacts with a variety of people who have faced a multitude of problems in their tragic lives. There is some slight dead-pan humour to lighten the mood as Simpson travels with his donkey Murphy.

Ninety years after they were thought to have died heroically in the Great War, the stretcher-bearer Simpson and his donkey journey throug
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
A powerful, thought-provoking novella that, in a series of vignettes, skewers some of Australia's highly regarded values: fairness, equity, egalitarianism.
Jack Simpson and his donkey, Murphy, are making their 29th attempt to get to the Inland Sea of Australia. As every time before, they are waylaid by a collection of 'forgotten' people. An incarnation of Gallipoli's Simpson and his donkey, Jack is only seen by those who need his help. "I lived and yet did not live; was flesh and yet not."
A timel
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
A dark, strange novella, of back roads and pathos as the near mythic figures of Simpson and Murphy travel in search of the 'inland sea', only seen by those who need them ... those for whom the 'lucky country' is as mythic and remote as the 'legend' that now cloaks the reality of Simpson and Murphy themselves.
Kate Littlejohn
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
A poignant and timely little book reimagining the heroic persona of Simpson and his donkey. Magical realism and a clear vision of Australia as a country and society bring the story to life. Strange, bleak and sad.
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Macauley undercuts the notion of Australia as the 'lucky country' in this short satire which employs Simpson and his donkey of Gallipoli fame to paint a somewhat more grim picture of modern Australia and its failures of humanity. It's a great concept and well executed.
Brenda Kittelty
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wildly imaginative, funny, heart-rending, and prescient. What a fabulous little book!
Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it
A minor Macauley, but still a must read. A wonderful writer.
Kris McCracken
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh my, this is an immensely bleak –albeit amazingly prescient – fable of the lies that Australians like to tell themselves about our national character. Using the figure of national icon John Simpson Kirkpatrick (who actually was a Pom with decidedly Socialist tendencies) as the touchstone, Macauley presents a very dark satire on the grim truth if the 'Aussie character'.

It's all a bit David Lynch at time, disorienting in approach, but it rather effectively drives the point home. The limits of va
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Wayne Macauley is the author of the highly acclaimed novels: Blueprints for a Barbed-Wire Canoe, Caravan Story and, most recently, The Cook, which was shortlisted for the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award, a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and the Melbourne Prize Best Writing Award. His new book Demons will be available in August 2014. He lives in Melbourne.

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