Craig Silvey : Jewel of the West

May has been quite light on posts, mainly because I have been bombarded with assessments. But since a couple of these assessments were presentations that fit in quite nicely with the theme of this blog, why not mix business with pleasure? 🙂

The first presentation I did was for a training unit – we had to choose a book, book series, or author and “train” a small group on the topic. I chose my favourite author, and one who is not very well-known – Craig Silvey.

He's a handsome devil isn't he?

I discovered Craig Silvey a few years ago when his first novel, Rhubarb, was chosen as the “One Book” for the Perth Writer’s Festival and there was promotional material in my local library. I couldn’t get my hands on it for a while as all the copies were out on loan, but when I did it was well worth the wait. Rhubarb was one of the most unusual and beautiful books I had ever read, and became my new no. 1 book of all time (a position held by Watership Down by Richard Adams since I was 11).

Rhubarb

The plot was simple while also, somehow being complex – It is very character and setting focused and so the plot seems like a natural progression of little interwoven stories, taking a simple thread of plot and weaving it into an intricate tapestry. The main character is Eleanor Rigby (yes, like the Beatles song) who is young, delicate and blind. She goes through her (newly) sightless world with her faithful if somewhat incompetent guide dog Warren, as she wanders the vibrant streets and beaches of Fremantle, Western Australia. She lives with her mother who has become almost comatose on the couch, immersed in her own television world, and has only vague, lonely acquaintances. The other main character is Ewan Dempsey, a young man who is agoraphobic and spends his days smoking weed, making cellos to sell and playing his own collection of cellos. The two meet when Eleanor passes by his house and is drawn by the sound of his music, and an awkward, confused, but touching romance begins. The book is written almost like poetry – Silvey uses a lot of alliteration, repetition and strung together words, which create a wonderful sense of pace and panic, especially in parts where Eleanor is trying to negotiate the Fremantle streets. Even after all these years Rhubarb is still on my list of top 10 books I’ve read.

Jasper Jones

When the second novel of Silvey’s, Jasper Jones, came out in 2009 I was so excited because I hadn’t even heard he was writing another. I was surprised by how different Jasper Jones was to Rhubarb, but I was even more surprised when I grew to love it more than Rhubarb. The book revolves around a 13-year-old boy called Charlie Bucktin (I bet you were expecting me to say Jasper jones :P) who is a quiet, bookish boy who aspires to be a writer. it is set in rural Western Australia in the 1960’s. The book begins with Charlie reading in his sleep-out bedroom when he gets a surprise visit by Jasper Jones, a half caucasian, half aboriginal boy a few years his senior who is the troublemaker and scapegoat of the town. Charlie has never had prejudice towards Jasper, maybe because his best friend, Jeffrey Lu, is Vietnamese also is victim to the towns racism and small-mindedness, or maybe because he sees that the town is not in the right and Jasper may be a good person. So, when Jasper asks for Charlie’s help, and to follow him into the bush at night, Charlie goes with him. What Charlie discovers is a secret too big and heavy for any teenager to have to keep, but he does, for the sake of Jasper Jones. Jasper Jones has been compared to Harper Lee’s To kill a mockingbird because it has the same Southern Gothic feel to it, but in an Australian setting, as well as themes of racism, small-town-small-mindedness, and growing up. It is an amazing book, touching and disturbing then just a hop-skip-and-jump away to complete, youthful hilarity and triumph. It gets added points for making me cheer out loud at a cricket game, when I have never had the slightest interest in cricket.

I would recommend both Rhubarb and Jasper Jones to anyone, because they are amazingly written, especially for such a new, young writer.
If you would like any more info check out the slide show that I used for my presentation: Craig Silvey
and the group of bookmarks I’ve collected on del.icio.us that relate to Craig Silvey: Craig Silvey del.icio.us bundle
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