|Allen and Unwin|
'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’
When Bobby Blue’s father dies, Bobby leaves the outback cattle station where he has lived and worked and takes employment as an assistant to the newly appointed constable, Daniel Collins. Bobby lives and works with Collins and his family, and is educated in makeshift sort of way, alongside the constable’s daughters. Struggling to fit into the local outback community, the constable and his family, particularly his wife, Esme, fail to understand the people they serve. When tragedy strikes at the heart of the small community of Coal Creek, Bobby Blue is caught between the love he has for his best friend, Ben, and the loyalty he needs to show to his employer and his family. The simmering tension revealed forms the basis for this starkly written look at the Australian outback.
In many ways this is a slow burn of a book, as initially, nothing much seems to happen and yet the insidious rumble of unrest is never far away from this small town community. Simply told, in first person narrative, Bobby Blue’s voice recounts the unfolding of a tragedy in the quiet language of an uneducated man. There are no airs and graces, no unnecessary words, he just tells it as it is, and yet the starkness of the narrative belies the strength of the story and almost without realising it, Bobby Blue’s gentle recollection becomes a powerful look at the ties of love and loyalty, brotherhood and friendship, good and evil, which ultimately bind us all together.
This is the first of Alex Miller’s eleven books that I have read and I would be interested in reading more of his back catalogue to see if this gentle style is reminiscent of his way with words.
My thanks to Real Readers for the opportunity to read and review Coal Creek.
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