The Art of the Engine Driver
"On a hot summer's night, the old and the new, diesel and steam, town and country all collide - and nobody will be left unaffected.
"As a passenger train leaves Spencer Street Station on its haul to Sydney, a family of three - Vic, Rita and their son Michael - are off to a party. George Bedser has invited the whole neighbourhood to celebrate the engagement of his daughter.
"Vic is an engine driver, with dreams of being like his hero Paddy Ryan and becoming the master of the smooth ride.
"As the neighbours walk to the party we are drawn into the lives of a bully, a drunk, a restless girl and a young boy forced to grow up before he is ready.
"The Art of the Engine Driver is a luminous and evocative tale of ordinary suburban lives told with an extraordinary power and depth."
They're walking down the old street again, Rita, Vic, and the boy, Michael. It's summer, a warm breezy evening, and they are walking under a cloudless peach sky, ripe and glowing. The sun is low and their shadows almost stretch back to the family house at the golf course end of the street.
They've reached that point in their walk, the halfway mark, where the houses and yards suddenly taper off into Scotch thistle and open, swaying grass. The sun has nearly dropped to earth and the three of them have stopped, staring out across the blades of whispering grass and thistle, across to the flour mills and railway lines, as if expecting a low, distant thud.
Vic's white, open-necked shirt is more in keeping with the late 1940s than the late 1950s. But Rita's dress, yellow and black, with bright flowers and one dark bold strap, is a garment of its times. For this suburb, a garment ahead of its times. Her hair is dyed, with a faint suggestion of red, and bounces occasionally about her neck as she walks. Michael is wearing his best shirt. Short sleeves, short pants. Rita turned thirty-three last autumn, Vic is forty, Michael is twelve. There they are, still as a photograph, listening for the distant thud of the sun as it prepares to drop from the sky, out there, somewhere beyond the railway lines and the flour mills.
From the Flamingo paperback edition, 2001.
This novel was shortlisted for the 2002 Miles Franklin Award.
About the Author:
Steven Carroll was born in Melbourne. He was educated at La Trobe University and taught English in high schools before playing in bands in the 1970s. After leaving the music scene Carroll began writing as a playwright nd became the theatre critic for the Sunday Age.
He published his first novel Remeber Me, Jimmy James in 1992 followed by Momoko (1994) and The Love Song of Lucy McBride (1998).
The Art of the Engine Driver is his fourth novel and his first in Flamingo.
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Last modified: June 23, 2005.