The Slow Natives
"'If one saw behind the faces into the hearts, one would die.'
"A suburban couple have drifted into the shallows of middle-aged boredom. Their fourteen-year-old son is a stranger, meeting their attempts at love with hostile indifference. Surly at home, he is a dab hand at shoplifting and looks like sliding into delinquency.
"Moving from Brisbane to a country convent and the Gold Coast, the novel is a brilliant, witty portrait of the surface of ordinary life. The Leverson family and their connections appear normal but desire and inner emotion are never quite so simple."
"The Slow Natives is a remarkable book by an author with an unusual assortment of talents, enough to titillate any jaded appetite for novel-reading." - Australian Book Review
He'd first begun to steal when he was eleven.
No, they had both said, surprisingly in agreement, no, you may not have a six-stitcher.
He'd got a bit sick of arguing that October. The heat was terrible. The Terrace was a dried-up strip of sticky tar-paper. Okay, he said. And he had gone into town and taken one from a city counter. It was so easy there wasn't even much fun in it. And of course he couldn't even use the ball but had to keep it hidden at the bottom of his play-box. Fondling it in bed after his light was out, once he had dropped off to sleep with it against the pillow and when it had been discovered in the morning he became involved in a series of lies he was unable to sustain. They kept on hoping for a long time that he had borrowed it from a schoolmate as he had insisted, but each knew that glossy red globe was bright with its own guilt, and he became so tired of their upset and accusing eyes he had walked down to the park near the ferry one afternoon and chucked it straight back into the river where it went bobbing off down the tide. "I gave it back," he announced at tea. "Satisfied?"
From the Penguin paperback edition, 1990.
This novel was awarded the 1965 Miles Franklin Award.
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Last modified: November 16, 2004.