Monday 13 April 2020

Book Review ~ Shepherd by Catherine Jinks

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Text Publishing
28 February 2020

My thanks to FMcM Associates for my copy of this book
Tom Clay was a poacher back in Suffolk. He was twelve when he was caught, tried and transported to New South Wales.

Now, assigned to a shepherds’ hut out west, he is a boy among violent men. He keeps his counsel and watches over his sheep; he steers clear of blowhards like the new man, Rowdy Cavanagh. He is alert to danger, knowing he is a foreigner here: that the land resists his understanding.

The question is: how fast can he learn?

Because a vicious killer named Dan Carver is coming for Tom and Rowdy. And if Tom can’t outwit Carver in the bush – and convince Rowdy to keep his stupid mouth shut – their deaths will be swift and cruel.

This riveting, fast-paced new novel from the multi-award-winning Catherine Jinks brings the brutality and courage of Australia’s colonial frontier vividly to life – and sees one of our master storytellers at the peak of her powers.

What did I think about it..

Thirteen year old Suffolk lad, Tom Clay is quite an unusual protagonist. Transported to New South Wales for the crime of poaching, Tom certainly knows his way around, but having to spend time tending sheep in the company of violent and abusive fellow prisoners, Tom soon learns that in this untamed wilderness, it is every man for himself, and ultimately, only the tough survive.

Against the brutal backdrop of this new and dangerous land there are many men who would seek to do harm and the brutal nature of the story describes this survival mechanism in dramatic detail. Stark and unforgiving, Shepherd is a difficult story to feel comfortable with, but all credit to the author for making such a difficult subject into a quite compelling read.

Written with expert knowledge, the landscape comes alive, the heat and dust, the sheer slog of having to survive in such a rough terrain, and the never knowing where danger will spring from next all combine to  make this into quite a jumpy sort of story, and more times than enough, I had the jitters just wondering what would befall Tom next. Having said that, I rather liked Tom, his tender relationship with his dog, Gyp, the way named the sheep and how he did his best to survive when all the odds were pitted against him.

Stark, brutal and filled to the brim with tension, Shepherd is one of those stories which may not appeal to everyone, but if you can read it, then this is definitely an unforgettable story which stays with you long after the last page is turned.

Catherine Jinks' books for adults, young adults and children have been published in a dozen countries and have won numerous awards, including a Victorian Premier Literary Award and the CBCA Book of the Year Award(four times). She lives in the Blue Mountains.

Twitter @text_publishing


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