2009, 387 p
If this book wins the 2010 Miles Franklin award I shall be seriously disgruntled.
I enjoyed Temple’s The Broken Shore, which was long-listed for the Miles Franklin in 2006 and which I thought a subtle analysis of masculinity and aboriginality, wrapped up in a murder mystery. This book lacks the nuance of the earlier book (to which it is tangentially linked) and instead reads very much like a film script. Its sentences are short, almost monosyllabic and its descriptions read like a string of observational comments. Conversations drive the narrative, often shooting back and forth like a ping-pong ball. The masculinity that was so fragile in The Broken Shore is too macho here: the women are just props.
Temple establishes the Melbourne setting on the first page, when he backfills a little on the history of the West Gate bridge, and then alludes to the Black Saturday bushfires a few pages further in. It felt clumsy and a little gratuitous.
I’m probably not the best person to read or comment on crime fiction. Every Friday night Mr Judge and I settle down in front of the ABC for our weekly dose of crime, forensic science and forensic psychiatry (e.g. Wire in the Blood; Silent Witness; Body of Evidence etc. etc. etc.) I sit there and watch it unfolding before me and almost without fail half an hour later in bed, I’ll say “But I don’t get it- who DID it??”
Which is the way I felt at the end of this book. Peter Temple has been quoted as saying “I hate things being spelled out” . Don’t feel that way Mr Temple, spell away! There were so many characters in this book, the plot-lines were so tangled, too many themes were squeezed in- the last pages of the book just passed in a blur and once again I’m asking “But I don’t get it- who DID it?”
If you’re not the best person, why comment at all?
I read (and commented) on this book because it’s been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin. Given that the Miles Franklin is probably Australia’s most important (though not most lucrative) literary prize, it does raise the question of genre within a literary fiction prize list.
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OH YESSSSSSSSSSS…. we too love to settle down in front of the ABC for our weekly dose of crime, forensic science and forensic psychiatry eg Wire in the Blood; Silent Witness etc. I shall raise a glass to absent friends, next time 🙂
But that avoids the real question. Who should have won the Miles Franklin?
I would have liked to have seen “Lovesong” win. On the other hand, I worked out that I have only predicted two of the last seven Miles Franklin awards. Obviously I bring the kiss of failure to the books I read!
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