Holly Throsby’s successful songwriting background shines through in her debut novel. Turns of phrase and character descriptions are frequently repeated throughout the book, creating a distinct pattern, like a chorus in a song. This recurring writing device cleverly makes the wide cast of characters more familiar to the reader and reinforces a feeling of small-town gossip, by which the narrator, Jean, pieces together the mysterious events that unfold in the story.
Told with a dry, succinct sense of humour the reader is lulled into the sleepiness of an Australian country town, hanging out at the ‘bowlo’ or ‘wicko’ with 17 year old Jean as she ‘eats nice steak dinners’ and observes the change in the townsfolk following the mysterious separate disappearances of two of its favourite residents.
Rosie White, a year older and idolised by Jean, was the first to go missing, followed by middle-aged Bart McDonald, the most popular resident in Goodwood.
‘A week after the last sighting of Rosie – by her mother, Judy White, who saw her close her bedroom door after saying her goodnights, only to not be there the next day to say her goodmornings – Bart McDonald vanished.’
The mystery slowly unfolds as a large cast of characters is introduced and the reader is drawn into the heart of the town, listening in on the gossip, following the clues and speculating what actually happened and whether the disappearances were related.
Individual characters (including Jean’s dog, Backflip) are colourful and relatable. The traditional Aussie stereotypes are all there – both the loveable and the loathable. I bonded with the characters and didn’t feel that they were just a figment of the author’s imagination. By the end of the book I felt like I’d spent a weekend in Goodwood, catching up with the narrator, Jean as she shared her story.
A downside to this book might be that the dry humour undermines the seriousness of the disappearances and the story’s conclusion. However, the reader enters the story knowing it’s fictional and anyway, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all able to handle tough and tense situations with a sense of humour?
What are you reading at the moment? Do you like stories told with a sense of humour?