Combined Reviews: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

jasper_jones.jpg    Jasper Jones
Craig Silvey
Allen & Unwin
2009

[This novel has been shortlisted for the 2010 Miles Franklin Award and for the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction - NSW Premier's Literary Awards. It also won the Indie Book of the Year Award in 2009.]

From the publisher's page

Late on a hot summer night in the tail end of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleep-out. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress.

Jasper takes him through town and to his secret glade in the bush, and it's here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper's horrible discovery. With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushed and pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion as he locks horns with his tempestuous mother; falls nervously in love and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffrey Lu.

And in vainly attempting to restore the parts that have been shaken loose, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth, and why white lies creep like a curse. In the simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.
Reviews

Michael Williams in "The Monthly": "The prose is at times a little forced, the plotting and characterisation occasionally clich├ęd; but none of that matters. If we see a more entertaining, more heartfelt piece of Australian literature in the next 12 months it will be a rare year indeed. Amid the glimpses of small-town bigotry and adult compromise, Jasper Jones offers tender moments of adolescent romance and irresistible vignettes of friendship and quiet triumph. The exultation contained in the description of a cricket game featuring Charlie's irrepressible best friend ("Jeffrey Lu on debut") is enough alone to earn this book sentimental-classic status."

Rebecca Starford in "The Age": "Craig Silvey showed great promise in 2004 with the publication of his debut novel, Rhubarb. At 22, he had a flair for linguistic experimentation: with tone, rhythms and dynamics. Rhubarb was replete with strange syntax, puns and invented words. Overall, the consensus was that Silvey had talent and, with maturity, he would produce better work...In some ways his new book lives up to these expectations. Far tamer in style, Jasper Jones has a similar comedic spirit and precociousness. This time, however, Silvey has written for young adults as well as adult readers. Perhaps the younger age of prospective readers weakened more critical reflection: Jasper Jones, like Rhubarb, is marred by tedious repetition and occasional childish wit...Jasper Jones is not without flaws. But when Silvey remembers to tone down the puerility, it is an engaging historical portrait of an ambitious, intelligent boy labouring often amusingly under the parochialism of an isolated town."

Short notices

"Boomerang Books" weblog: "The feel and smell of small-town Australia are evoked skillfully, and yet (many) literary references are to US classics, Mark Twain and especially To Kill a Mockingbird. Elements of the coming-of-age story are mixed with those of the detective novel, livened with scenes of laugh-aloud humour. The sparring dialogue between Charlie and his friend Jeffrey, and the references to aspiring novelists will seem -- to some readers -- true to character, to others, tiresome. Jasper Jones, the Aboriginal scapegoat for the town's misadventures, is elusive and independent to the end. Themes of courage and cowardice, and the vitality of the ever-observant Charlie, will ensure this book's appeal especially to readers who are young and/or male. "

"Readings": "It's a riveting tale, set in 1960s small-town Australia, about a young, bookish adolescent who is drawn into events surrounding the grim disappearance of a local girl when the solitary Jasper Jones, a rebellious mixed-race older boy (in the town's eyes, 'a Thief, a Liar, a Thug, a Truant') comes asking for his help...Deeply thoughtful, remarkably funny and playful, this is a gloriously Australian book about outsiders and secrets (both ordinary and extraordinary)."

"aussiereviews": "Jasper Jones is a brilliant novel which manages to blend terrible, tragic events with touches of romance, plenty of humour and characters who are easy to like. Set in a (fictional) small mining town in country WA, against a backdrop of true events of the 1960s including the Vietnam War, the hanging of the 'Nedlands Monster', the disappearance of the Beaumont children and Doug Walters test cricket debut, the author manages to create a believable setting for his tale, and to draw the reader in to the lives of Charlie and his friends...This is a story which draws the reader in and, when it is over, leaves them wanting more. These are hard characters to have to leave behind."

"Whispering Gums" weblog: "There are many thematic and stylistic things that can be talked about in this book, making it a good one for discussion but, in the end, it is a fairly traditional coming-of-age story in its style, tone and structure. That said, if you like such stories, as I do, there's a good chance you'll find this a compelling and entertaining even if not a particularly challenging read. And is there anything wrong with that?"

Interviews

Erica Vowles on ABC Radio National's "The Book Show".

Other

Silvey discusses the novel on YouTube.

Book trailer:

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 3, 2010 7:30 AM.

Poem: The Muses of Australia by Victor Daley was the previous entry in this blog.

Australian Bookcovers #208 - Jim of the Hills by C. J. Dennis is the next entry in this blog.

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