Tom Keneally Watch #11

Reviews of The People's Train

Tom Adair in "The Times": "Why bother with Thomas Cook? For the price of a novel step aboard a Thomas Keneally tour of the world without leaving your armchair. Take off to Africa (Towards Asmara), the Middle East (The Tyrant's Novel), to America (Confederates) or to wartime Germany (Schindler's Ark)...Keneally's tours outshine his titles. The People's Train (emblematic of the Russian Revolution), is yet another lacklustre title. But, once aboard, the author's restlessness pays off. You're en route to Australia via Shanghai, then on to Russia, surveying the turbulent years of the early 20th century...A lesser writer might lazily have succumbed to historical hindsight, but Keneally portrays the mayhem of Russia in flux with a stringent adherence to the order (and disorder) of things. He presents in convincing minutia the Russia that is, creating a brittle verisimilitude that makes its melodramatic endgame surprisingly real."

Jon Wright on the "Bookmunch" weblog: "Keneally does a superbly consistent job of capturing his protagonist's voice. There is something faintly ridiculous about someone of Samsurov's radical credentials bothering himself with Brisbane's parochial issues, and his sense of muted dissatisfaction (even boredom) -- did he really escape incarceration and flee Russia via Japan and Shanghai for this -- is portrayed with great skill. He is meant for greater things and, in fact, the reader is alerted to this fact from the outset. The first part of the book is introduced as the retrospective memoir of Samsurov, "Late Hero of the Soviet Revolution," so we know all along that, come 1917, he will be back in the motherland, leading the charge...There are a few moments in Keneally's book when pedagogy trumps narrative flow, and this is a pity. Samsurov has a habit of explaining various aspects of Russian life or history to one of his Brisbane interlocutors in conspicuously precise detail: this sometimes feels like the author filling in potential gaps in his readers' knowledge, and it is all rather heavy-handed. This minor flaw aside, it is hard to fault Keneally's book. He paints a vivid portrait of what it must have felt like to be a Russian émigré stranded in early twentieth-century Australia but, just as importantly, it tells us a great deal about Australia's response to the world-changing events that were gradually coming to a boil."

Review of Australians: Origins to Eureka

Chris Saliba on "Webdiary": "In this new history of Australia novelist Thomas Keneally takes the reader from our continent's origins, some 45 millions years ago, when the landmass that is now Australia broke away from the super-continent known as "Gondwana". (The southern landmass Gondwana also comprised of India, Africa, South America and Antarctica. The name given to the other, northern landmass is Laurasia.)  Australians ends with the Eureka uprising, that extraordinary event of Australian history, which forged the iron in the nation's democratic soul. Privilege, authoritarian government, political chicanery, the interests of money, nepotism, all would feel the inexorable, countervailing forces of popular democratic agitation..Australians is a grand and absorbing feast of a book. There were many sections that I lingered over slowly, savouring Keneally's gift for bringing such a wide cast of characters to life, making the book a real experience. Keneally also writes in a witty, almost lapidary prose that is most appealing."

Review of Schindler's Ark

Lorraine Douglas on "The Complete Booker": "Keneally began researching and writing his documentary style novel - Schindler's Ark. I feel this first title signifies the Biblical message of Schindler's salvation of the Polish Jews he rescued in his factory in WW2. Akin to Noah saving mankind on his ark, Schindler's factory was considered a safe haven - almost like paradise compared to the concentration and labour camps of the Nazi regime. In many references in the book, Schindler is compared to and considered God...This is a powerful and unforgettable story...There is a real human touch to Keneally's writing which helped me to feel the intensity of the Holocaust and realize the message of Schindler's life."


Keneally chose 5 books about Russia for "The Moscow Times".

It seems the author is rather prone to wardrobe malfunctions, of a sort.

Keneally will be appearing at the 2010 Auckland Writers and Readers festival - 12-16 May.  He also gave the opening address at the 2010 Adelaide Writers' Festival.

And he ponders the Archibald Prize.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 7, 2010 8:39 PM.

Reprint: Letter to the Editor Regarding Breaker Morant was the previous entry in this blog.

2010 NSW Premier's Literary Awards Shortlists is the next entry in this blog.

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