Reprint: An Australian Novel: Review of "Jonah" by Louis Stone

In "Jonah," Mr. Louis Stone has given us an excellent novel. He has taken a phase of Australian life which has been rather neglected by local writers, and laid his setting in the slums of Sydney of a few years ago. Jonah, the deformed hero, is a sort of Napoleon of the gutter, the leader of a "push" in Waterloo, who has within him great possibilities. At first he is represented as an unsocial, unmoral outlaw, superior to his fellows only in force of character and enterprise, but later the half understood promptings of the paternal instinct lead him to marry the mother of his child, and turn him to honest work. Fortune and his own native abilities raise him higher and higher, but his wife cannot rise with him, and yearns for the gutter out of which she was lifted. Jonah turns for consolation elsewhere, but even here he is doomed to disappointment, for the object of his affections is selfish and mercenary, and proves to be in effect a murderess, as she has supplied his drunkard wife with liquor. So Jonah is left, his success turned to dust and ashes destined never to gain his heart's desire.

However, our interest in the plot is not confined to Jonah's career. Mr. Stone knows his subject, and writes with humour and observation, and a great deal of kindliness. His theme is often squalid, and the surroundings often repellant, but the author, without idealising, does not lay undue insistence on the unpleasant. There is the delightful idyll of Pinkey, factory girl, and "Chook," once leader of a push, whose savage soul is transfigured and tamed by a passion cleaner and sweeter than any he ever dreamed of, and who becomes a respectable, if somewhat bellicose, greengrocer. Then there is Mrs. Yabsley, the indomitable and great-hearted washer-woman who shares her good fortune with her neighbours, and submits to their imposition with open eyes out of sheer generosity. There is Paasch, the old German cobbler fiddler, broken by Jonah's ruthless progress; Mrs. Grimes, the wife of a drunkea ex-bank manager, who buries her refinement and her shame in the slums; Mrs. Partridge, Pinkey's idle and greedy step-mother, and a host of others. Mr. Stone will have no mere lay figures, and the smallest character, in his pages has a distinct individuality. The author is to be congratulated on this novel, which is a valuable and original contribution to Australian fiction. (Published by Methuen and Co.)

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 October 1911

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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