Coal Creek

Coal Creek

The new novel from Australia's highly acclaimed literary treasure is an extraordinarily powerful exploration of tragedy, betrayal, the true nature of friendship and the beauty of lasting love.'Me and Ben had been mates since we was boys and if it come to it I knew I would have to be on his side.'Bobby Blue is caught between loyalty to his only frien...

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Title:Coal Creek
Author:Alex Miller
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Edition Language:English

Coal Creek Reviews

  • Ashley Hay

    I had the great pleasure and privilege of talking with Alex Miller about his new book, "Coal Creek", at the Brisbane Writers' Festival last Sunday - I relished this book, and read it in a gulping and compelled kind of way.

    As I said in the session on Sunday, "It’s a tightly wound story – everything in it is essential. Set in the Queensland highlands in 1946 or 47, as its narrator, Bobby Blue, puts it, its evocations of place and people deliver both exquisite clarity and something terribly inexor

    I had the great pleasure and privilege of talking with Alex Miller about his new book, "Coal Creek", at the Brisbane Writers' Festival last Sunday - I relished this book, and read it in a gulping and compelled kind of way.

    As I said in the session on Sunday, "It’s a tightly wound story – everything in it is essential. Set in the Queensland highlands in 1946 or 47, as its narrator, Bobby Blue, puts it, its evocations of place and people deliver both exquisite clarity and something terribly inexorable. Alex has spoken at other times and in other places about the genesis of some of his earlier books – Autumn Laing, for instance, the eponymous focus of his previous book, bailed him up on a park bench in London and wouldn’t let him go. I wonder if Bobby Blue, the narrator, the very core, of Coal Creek, was similarly insistent.

    "I loved Bobby as a reader – I dived into his story and could not bear to stop until I’d found where it would deliver him. It’s the late 1940s, and Bobby’s 20 years old, just orphaned, and he turns his back on the work he’s done with his dad, out in the bush, and takes, instead, a job with the new constable, just arrived from the coast, and so clearly and terribly an outsider. I made my way through his story, and I felt anxious for Bobby. I felt elated for him. I felt scared and nervous and triumphant for him. I could not set him down."

  • MarciaB - Book Muster Down Under

    They say “a picture paints a thousand words” but in the case of

    , his words paint a thousand pictures! His evocative descriptions of the Queensland landscape bring it into such keen perspective that it almost becomes a character in the story with Bobby Blue, his main character, an uneducated man, telling us the story in the only way he knows how – in simple language that resonates with deep insight into the events leading up to that fateful day.

    Our narrator, Bobby Blewitt, or as

    They say “a picture paints a thousand words” but in the case of

    , his words paint a thousand pictures! His evocative descriptions of the Queensland landscape bring it into such keen perspective that it almost becomes a character in the story with Bobby Blue, his main character, an uneducated man, telling us the story in the only way he knows how – in simple language that resonates with deep insight into the events leading up to that fateful day.

    Our narrator, Bobby Blewitt, or as his mother called him, Bobby Blue, son of a stockman, is twenty years old. He’s always lived in Mount Hay - in fact Mount Hay, mustering and being in the bush are the things he knows best. With his father having recently passed on though, Bobby has been placed in a position where he needs to secure himself work so that he can survive.

    "...the old days was over for us and I needed to look around and find a new way for myself to make a living. The stations would have been happy to put me on and I might have stuck with the cattle work but the job with the new constable come up just then and I thought I would give it a go just for a short time. I did not expect things to work out the way they did."

    Daniel Collins is the new local constable. A man who fought in Papua New Guinea and originally from the coast, he relocates to Mount Hay with his wife and two daughters, taking up residence as the local policeman.

    When Bobby takes up employment with Daniel, some of the perks include him moving into a room at the watch house where he finds himself with a roof over his head and food in his belly. Daniel's oldest daughter, Irie, teaches him to read and write, but she also awakens something deeper within him. Uneducated or not, he is well aware that her age, as well as love between him and a girl of her social standing, would be forbidden!

    Ben Tobin has been Bobby’s mate since they were youngsters, more like a brother to him than his own, but when an incident occurs in which the two young Collins’ girls disappear and it is believed that Ben has kidnapped them, Bobby finds himself torn between loyalty to his long-time friend, a sense of duty to his new boss and love like no other as he is placed in the midst of a sequence of tragic events triggered by a well-meaning man born and bred on the coast but unschooled in the ways of the bush.

    is the first Alex Miller book I have read and it drew me in from the first page. Miller’s rich detailing of the landscape and the 1950's life in general brings the wild nature of outback Queensland to life but it is Bobby Blue’s distinct voice that carries this novel. Striking in its simplicity and with the slow, easy cadence of those who have grown up in the outback, the prose is enhanced by the lack of quoted language, with this semi-literate cattleman jumping in to the telling of all the events which have brought him to this place and time.

    Drawing deeply on his own experiences working in the outback, Miller has created a memorable character in Bobby Blue as he takes us to the heart of the stone country, giving us a novel overflowing with the love of family and the memories we carry with us, the limits to which friendship, honour and loyalty can be tested and last but not least, the beauty of love in all its forms.

    Coal Creek is a powerful novel with great depth – one which should be savoured

  • Steve lovell

    As another drought starts to bite across the Outback vast herds of cattle are being shifted out of those areas affected to better pasture further south. Most of the owners of the mega-acred properties, many bigger than European countries, now use the thundering automotive road trains to get their beasts from A to B. Others see the advantage of using the tried and true method of the cattle barons of the days of yore, the Duracks and Kidmans et al – the 'long paddock'. Currently eighteen thousand

    As another drought starts to bite across the Outback vast herds of cattle are being shifted out of those areas affected to better pasture further south. Most of the owners of the mega-acred properties, many bigger than European countries, now use the thundering automotive road trains to get their beasts from A to B. Others see the advantage of using the tried and true method of the cattle barons of the days of yore, the Duracks and Kidmans et al – the 'long paddock'. Currently eighteen thousand head, split into nine mobs, are advancing down the continent from Winton to Hay – over two thousand clicks of hard travelling through the hinterlands of two states. Seventy drovers are pushing them along and it started some six months ago, with the first steers expected to reach their destination around the turn of the year. As the drought inexorably follows them further south, this massive undertaking may have to move on into South Australia, heading for the most luscious of grazing land still viable for that number – around the Coorong.

    I am sure if he is still around today for this, Bobby Blue would be in his element – Bobby being the central protagonist of Alex Miller's latest offering, 'Coal Creek'. He is a magnificent creation, rivalling Richard Flanagan's Dorrigo Evans as 2013's nomination to the roll call of our country's seminal fictional heroes. Both are men of immense substance, although in vastly different senses. Both are also flawed, as all great literary heroes need to be.

    I have listed Miller's 'Journey Into Stone Country' as only behind a couple of Winton's efforts and Craig Silvey's 'Jasper Jones' as my favourite home grown novel. It is, as with 'Coal Creek', a book of 'forbidden' love, albeit of a totally different nature. Here the socially unacceptable relationship is between a man/boy and a girl/woman, the latter just scraping into her teens. The tale is a slow burner, taking its time to build to its shockingly tragic climax. The author cagily leaves hints en route that what will eventually befall our 'innocent' couple will not be for the faint-hearted. As with 'Stone Country' this is ultimately a work of redemption, with most, but not all, wrongs being righted.

    Billy Blue is a country lad, illiterate when we first meet him, but well schooled enough to read the hard-knuckle bindee country, his natural environment inland from the Townsville coast, like a primer. The ranges of Billy's domain hide the secretive and the fugitive, as well as the being the domain of the semi-wild scrub cattle Billy musters. The events take place in the decade or so following the last world war.

    The town of Mount Hay, where Billy learnt the ways of the bush from his now deceased father, is a sun-blasted hamlet where torpor is enshrined and the law administered at arm's length. Into this cauldron comes the Collins family. The father is the town's new cop, a stickler for protocol – a trait sure to raise the hackles of those previously largely left alone to sort out their own affairs. His wife is determined to bring some coastal culture to this woebegone place. It takes a while, but for both it all goes horrendously belly-up. The couple's eldest daughter, Irie, takes Bobby under her wing almost as soon as he is taken on by Daniel Collins as his assistant. At first she is his tutor, but obviously they come to mean far more to each other. All are on a collision course involving Bobby's best mate, the local 'black sheep'. The novel is enhanced by the fact that it is Billy's plain speaking voice that narrates, the sustaining of which is perhaps Miller's greatest triumph. He illuminates and beguiles with his character's simplistic vernacular, despite his mouthpiece struggling to have words for the profound events that befall him.

    The only disappointment with this wonderful opus is the denouement. Its brevity weaned this particular reader away from Bobby and Irie long before he desired to be. A sadness enveloped when I finally put the book down. I wanted to be part of their world for longer – to follow their course onwards through time for as long as it took.

    There is much to ponder with this fine publication from one of our best. He demonstrates how quick we are to pass judgement on our own, how the media feeds this tendency and asks whether sometimes, when it comes to information, if not less is more? Billy was a man of few words but intense in his feelings. Back then, as now, this can be viewed as a failing. Miller demonstrates, once and for all, that 'still waters run deep'.

    Today's outback stock-men are as likely to be steering helicopters as they are horses. But those of Billy Blue's ilk are national treasures, no matter their hue.

  • Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘It was such a familiar music I believe we stopped hearing it.’

    Central Queensland in the late 1940s provides the setting for Coal Creek. Robert Blewitt, known as Bobby Blue, is the hero of this novel and its narrator. Bobby has worked with his father mustering bullocks, but when Bobby is almost 21 his father dies and he looks for new work. Bobby approaches Daniel Collins the new local constable at Mount Hay, and becomes his offsider. Bobby lives in the fibro two man quarters at the b

    ‘It was such a familiar music I believe we stopped hearing it.’

    Central Queensland in the late 1940s provides the setting for Coal Creek. Robert Blewitt, known as Bobby Blue, is the hero of this novel and its narrator. Bobby has worked with his father mustering bullocks, but when Bobby is almost 21 his father dies and he looks for new work. Bobby approaches Daniel Collins the new local constable at Mount Hay, and becomes his offsider. Bobby lives in the fibro two man quarters at the back of the police block and has his meals with Constable Collins, his wife Esme and their daughters Irie and Miriam. Thanks to Esme and Irie, Bobby learns to read and write. Daniel and Esme Collins have come to Mount Hay to make a difference, and while things start well they don't continue that way.

    Bobby's friend Ben Tobin has a relationship with an Aboriginal girl called Deeds, whose aunt Rosie Gnapun has a grudge against Ben. Rosie Gnapun makes a complaint to Daniel Collins about Ben which leads Bobby to wonder what he will do if Ben and Daniel come into conflict.

    Bobby and Irie are drawn to each other, and it's Irie and Miriam's setting off for a place that Bobby has talked about that sets in motion a tragic set of consequences. Irie is only 13, and her parents are quick to think the worst of Bobby.

    `All our lives was changed forever in them few confused seconds of panic and none of it should have ever happened.'

    Bobby's language reflects his lack of formal education. This made his voice seem more authentic to me, once I stopped focussing on grammar. Bobby may have comparatively limited words with which to convey his account of events and to describe place and feelings but he is not bound by the usual rules of language. He describes what he sees, and he sees more than one possible way of doing things, more than one way to define truth. Good and evil are relative rather than absolute, respect and flexibility are the keys to survival. And yet, from this novel it is Bobby's descriptions of country that hooked me and will stay with me long after the story itself has faded in my memory.

    `I liked to hear the roar of a creek in flood. It was the sound of the country breathing after a long spell of holding its breath.'

    Coal Creek is Alex Miller's 11th book: I have added the others to my reading list.

    `And that may be just as well, for we can dream in the present and see no harm in it but get our comfort from our dreams, and if we could see the future we would have no dreams but only the wreck of our days to think on.'

    Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  • Margitte

    The official blurb to this story does not do it justice by a long shot. This book simply ripped my guts out.

    It is the story of Bobby Blue ( real name Robert Blewitt), his parents, his brother, his friend Ben Tobin, his new boss Daniel Collins, with the latter's wife, Esme, and two daughters, Irie and Miriam, who arrived in Mount Hay, where Bobby Blue becomes a police officer. It is the Australian outback of the 1940s. Tough people with a gentle core are misunderstood and read incorre

    The official blurb to this story does not do it justice by a long shot. This book simply ripped my guts out.

    It is the story of Bobby Blue ( real name Robert Blewitt), his parents, his brother, his friend Ben Tobin, his new boss Daniel Collins, with the latter's wife, Esme, and two daughters, Irie and Miriam, who arrived in Mount Hay, where Bobby Blue becomes a police officer. It is the Australian outback of the 1940s. Tough people with a gentle core are misunderstood and read incorrectly when the new police officer, with a sense of self-importance, driven by a sense of superiority, is determined to shape up the town.

    Mount Hay is a godforsaken little town in the remote outback where the previous police officer believed in natural justice. Where people sorted themselves out and did not need the law to teach them how to solve problems. With some prophesies and curses still ruling most of the outcomes, any natural justice had a predictable outcome, especially when grudges had to be settled. It was kind of destiny.

    While the harshness of the environment, in which cattle barons still ruled over most of the Australian continent, nurtured a genetic toughness in its people, it also created a silent formula of understanding which never needed words to be expressed. Love came knocking on every door and was a hard thing to resist. Love between parents and children, husband and wife, siblings and friends. Then there is a thing called trust. And another thing called loyalty. It is how they all chose to survive.

    With the 'incomers' in town, centuries' old traditions and understandings got destroyed by a woman who refused to adapt to her new environment or home. Instead, she demanded the reverse, with tragic consequences. When the sterile laws of the land was suddenly strictly applied to the situations, an ugliness of spirit and intent burst forth upon the land and the inhabitants.

    Bobby Blue, the first person narrator, with his limited education, meanders through the landscape and the events in a simple, intelligent, but effective language that completely captures the mind and heart of the reader. The Queensland landscape, so richly and evocatively described, is as much a part of the plot as the characters. Every element in this book plays an important role.

    This is one of those books that left me totally speechless and emotionally blown to pieces after closing it. I was extremely mad and heartbrokenly sad.

    The ending celebrated integrity and love, but at the highest price that could ever be paid for it.

    . I simply do not have the words to describe this masterful offering. It is one of the best literary discoveries I ever made. Most of the book is quotable.

    This author is a must-read. Certainly one of the best and most gripping books I have read in a very very long time.

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

  • Howard

    – Geordie Williams,

    – Alex Miller

    , Miller’s eleventh novel, is set in the stone country of Queensland during the late 1940’s, a region that he knows intimately, and it is populated by authentic characters based upon his knowledge of the peop/>Coal/>“The

    – Geordie Williams,

    – Alex Miller

    , Miller’s eleventh novel, is set in the stone country of Queensland during the late 1940’s, a region that he knows intimately, and it is populated by authentic characters based upon his knowledge of the people who live there. After all, he immigrated from Britain to Australia at age sixteen and spent a number of years working as a stockman in that area.

    While reading this beautifully written story, I was struck by the fact that with some small changes it could have been set in the southwestern U.S. The descriptions of weather, vegetation, and landscape had a familiar ring even though I have never visited Australia. Furthermore, the people in Miller’s story who felt at home in the stone country would have felt the same in the Texas Panhandle or that state’s Llano Estacado. And the people who felt out of place and wanted to initiate change in the stone country would have experienced the same reception as anyone attempting to do the same on the Texas plains.

    Many of Miller’s novels explore the divide between the coast and the interior, and that includes

    At the heart of the story is the tension created by a couple who migrated from the coast into the stone country and who are unwilling to accept things as they are, but set out to “better” them. They and their coastal sensibility and sense of superiority are totally at odds with the people and the environmental conditions of the outback. And in the end, it is their undoing.

    This is a story that builds slowly, but beautifully, leading to two climaxes, one tragic, but inevitable, and the other poignant, but unexpected. It is also a haunting story that will stay with me for a long time.

    This was my first Alex Miller novel, but it will not be the last.

  • Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

    Told in the first person, Coal Creek begins in the late 1940's and is the story of twenty year old 'Bobby Blue', born and raised in the back country of the Queensland Highlands. In need of a way to make a living after the death of his father, Bobby gets a job with the the new police sergeant of Mount Hay, Da

    Told in the first person, Coal Creek begins in the late 1940's and is the story of twenty year old 'Bobby Blue', born and raised in the back country of the Queensland Highlands. In need of a way to make a living after the death of his father, Bobby gets a job with the the new police sergeant of Mount Hay, Daniel Collins. Daniel and his family are 'coastal' people who struggle to understand life amongst the ranges and Bobby Blue observes silently as the Collins' ignorance leads them all inexorably into tragedy.

    While it took me a little while to connect to the rhythm of Bobby Blue's idiosyncratic 'voice', I was soon captivated by the story Bobby Blue had to tell. It is a tale that meanders through memories of his childhood, the land he loves and the community he was born into as he relates his fate and the way it intertwines with the Collins'.

    Though the language is spare, Miller is able to evoke people, places and emotions with a deceptively simple turn of phrase. Reflecting Bobby Blue's laconic nature, the pace of the novel is restrained. The tension builds from Bobby Blue's hints of impending tragedy, foreshadowed by his friendship with wild bushman, Ben, and his growing infatuation with Daniel and Esme's young daughter, Irie.

    Coal Creek is a quiet but powerful novel of family, friendship and loyalty, tested by betrayal and tragedy. This is a book destined to be another awarded literary triumph for Alex Miller.

  • Paul

    Coal Creek an Interesting Story

    I always panic when I receive a book that has been endorsed by various literary publications because we all know the amount of verbiage the London Literary idiots can spout in one review article. Having read Barracuda earlier this year being a case in point to the London Literary knobs were spouting about it like the emperor’s new clothes. So you can imagine my surprise to be presented with another book based in Australia the colour drained from my face

    Coal Creek an Interesting Story

    I always panic when I receive a book that has been endorsed by various literary publications because we all know the amount of verbiage the London Literary idiots can spout in one review article. Having read Barracuda earlier this year being a case in point to the London Literary knobs were spouting about it like the emperor’s new clothes. So you can imagine my surprise to be presented with another book based in Australia the colour drained from my face with the pontificating of the Literary sorts splashed all over it.

    I can admit for once they were correct and I will use less space but this is a brilliant novel a simple story told very well that is not too long and does not drag the story out. Set in Queensland outback in the 1940s where life was harsh and people of all genders were tough we get a wonderful examination of live without being preachy.

    Written as the account of Bobby Blue’s account of everything that happened especially around events in Coal Creek we get well defined characters with all their good and bad points. We get an examination of things that matter, friendship, love, loyalty and trust all important aspects of human life. One of the interesting relationships I found was that between city folk and outback folk and their different outlook on life and what matters. It is also an interesting account of man’s relationship with nature itself and that one should always respect it not enforce ones will upon it.

    This is a wonderful story told well that will give so much pleasure while being read, while at the same time it could easily be adapted for the big screen. The prose may seem stilted at first but when you understand the narrator Bobby is not the most literate and it is his account which really makes this book a pleasure to read.

  • Dale Harcombe

    Four and a half stars.I admit to being a fan of Alex Miller’s writing, so I was keen to read his latest offering. It did not disappoint. Alex Miller is first and foremost a storyteller. I loved the voice of Bobby Blue who is telling his story and his way of looking at the world. He is loyal and true to what he believes even when others see things differently. It shows a great picture of a friendship between Bobby and Ben. It also covers such issues as how background and family can influence deci

    Four and a half stars.I admit to being a fan of Alex Miller’s writing, so I was keen to read his latest offering. It did not disappoint. Alex Miller is first and foremost a storyteller. I loved the voice of Bobby Blue who is telling his story and his way of looking at the world. He is loyal and true to what he believes even when others see things differently. It shows a great picture of a friendship between Bobby and Ben. It also covers such issues as how background and family can influence decisions and behaviour. As well, it gives a graphic description of the Australian landscape and the at times ambiguous relationship with indigenous people. It is a story of love but also of betrayal and prejudice.

    In Mount Hay Bobby Blue works as a policeman under the new constable Daniel Collins. Given the views of Daniel and his wife Esme, Bobby finds himself caught between his job and his friend Ben Tobin as well as Bobby’s growing feelings for the young Irie. Irie has been teaching Bobby to read. The longer the book goes on the more you are sure tragedy will follow. Sure enough it does but perhaps in manner not quite expected.

    Two quotes I liked from Bobby are; ‘love is like faith. It does you good to have it, but it usually has a price to it.’

    ‘And it is the heart that knows the truth in us.’

    But I could easily have chosen any number of other lines to quote. I highly recommend this book.

    My biggest problem is the cover, which depicts a young man in bush hat. Why they covered up the beautiful green cardboard cover with the horseshoe on it is beyond me. All that needed to make it perfect was the title and author’s name.

  • MaryG2E

    4.5 stars

    In step with the digital revolution, the publishing industry has burgeoned with new writers, new genres and new stories. Never before has there been such an output of new writing, whether it be on line or in hard copy. So how does an author make their work stand out from the crowded marketplace? It seems to me that some authors jump on board emerging trends, dare I say gimmicks, to set their work apart from the others. A popular trend I have noticed recently is an increased

    4.5 stars

    In step with the digital revolution, the publishing industry has burgeoned with new writers, new genres and new stories. Never before has there been such an output of new writing, whether it be on line or in hard copy. So how does an author make their work stand out from the crowded marketplace? It seems to me that some authors jump on board emerging trends, dare I say gimmicks, to set their work apart from the others. A popular trend I have noticed recently is an increased frequency of the ‘stream of consciousness’ ‘single voice’ narrative, told from within one character’s memory. This kind of work is notable for its densely packed text with very few paragraph breaks, long, convoluted sentences, the absence of direct speech and the abandonment of punctuation. For many readers, including this one, it is not an easy style to like.

    Alex Miller, one of Australia’s most acclaimed and decorated authors, has had a go at this type of narrative, and I think he has succeeded where other, similarly distinguished, authors have failed. (

    by Ian McEwan springs to mind.) The sad story of

    is told through the voice of Bobby Blue, a naive and poorly educated resident of a tiny community in outback Queensland in the immediate post-WW2 period. Clearly an older man at the time of his monologue, Bobby reports on events that took place years earlier when the social fabric of the small, isolated township of Mount Hay was torn apart by the arrival of outsiders, ‘people from the coast’, people with values and attitudes different from the locals. The consequences of the clash of values led to disastrous outcomes for both the township and some of its inhabitants. In Bobby’s mind, the calamities could have been avoided if the in-comers had been smart enough to learn the local ways and understand the traditional methods by which problems get solved in a tiny, remote, impoverished community.

    At the time of the tragedies, Bobby is around 20 years of age. By today’s standards, he might be considered to be still a callow youth, but in the post-WW2 period in outback Queensland, Bobby was indeed a man. Never keen on school, he had started work at the age of 10 with his father, an experienced stockman, mustering and labouring on the local cattle stations. His principal education was life in the saddle, the bush wisdom instilled in him by his father and his links to the local indigenous people. He gained a sense of Christian values from his beloved mother Mary, a gentle person who died early, leaving Bobby in a strictly masculine world, with its hard-scrabble living and tough attitudes. He has an unshakeable belief that his way and his wisdom are the right ones, though he and his associates don't feel the need to express these attitudes or share their beliefs with others. They are not open to dialogue or debate.

    One of the most significant aspects of

    is its sense of an authentic depiction of rural life. It is something that fans of Alex Miller understand well. Miller spent several years of his youth living that lifestyle, as a stockman on properties in the Outback in the 1950s. Bobby embodies many aspects of Miller’s own lived experiences. A key way in which Miller nails the authenticity of the story lies in Bobby’s speech patterns. In my mind I could hear the laconic Aussie bushman voice. It is the only voice we read in the first person throughout the entire book, with its clumsy phrasing, bad grammar and incorrect tenses. “I seen no tracks of cattle…” Bobby uses local argot for elements of his environment, “the bendee”, “the pad”. “I knew them bones belonged to an old scrubber bull my dad shot fifteen years before.”

    "

    " p. 87

    A quick summary of the plot is that young Bobby Blue, recently bereaved of his stockman father, gets a job working for the new police constable in Mount Hay. Daniel Collins has brought his wife Esme and young daughters, Irie and Miriam, from the coast to experience outback life. The townsfolk don’t accept the good intentions of the Collinses, and tensions simmer below the surface, in a kind of passive aggression towards the outsiders. Bobby speaks often of his deliberate withholding of information, just because the Collinses are not like him and the other locals. It is a mindset I personally can barely comprehend, but Miller skilfully uses it to underpin the drama of the novel’s climax.

    Bobby, 20, forms a close friendship with Irie, 12, and finds himself in a vexed situation: on one hand he knows it would be inappropriate to become romantically involved with this young girl, while on the other he feels Irie is his soul mate, with whom he would like to spend the rest of his life. Irie, mature beyond her years in some ways, has strong feelings for Bobby, and the secret times they spend together are precious to both. Eventually, Irie’s immaturity brings about a crisis, resulting in a showdown at Coal Creek, with tragic consequences. Those consequences demonstrate with great clarity how truth and justice can be manipulated to the advantage of some and disadvantage of other, less powerful individuals.

    I believe one of the other key messages of the book has emerged from Miller's own experiences of living in a town in regional Victoria which is being rapidly gentrified. Castlemaine's demography has undergone enormous change in the past two decades with an influx of cashed-up people from Melbourne seeking the 'Good Life' in the country. They arrive with all their Melbourne attitudes, expectations and values, push the price of real estate through the roof, and tell the long term residents that THEY know best how the town should be run. I have no doubt that the characters of Daniel and Esme have been devised by Miller to illustrate that clash of cultures which exists in many attractive rural communities today.

    In my opinion

    is a masterful piece of writing by one of Australia’s finest authors. I have not awarded it 5 stars though, as I feel that it is not an easy book to read, and its vernacular language is difficult for some readers. It is not a long book, but it manages to convey so many, subtlely nuanced ideas and situations, all of which serve to imbue the narrative with a feeling of “that’s how it really was for the rural, isolated poor in a vast pastoral setting in a remote corner of the Outback.”

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