2018, 267 p.
Well, Tony Abbott may have just discovered his local Little Library, but I’m very well aware of mine- both of them- one in the park and the other outside Open House, a local drop-in support centre. They have done dreadful things to my already groaning bookshelves. But how could I go past a brand-new, never-read, hard cover copy of Tim Winton’s recent book The Shepherd’s Hut?
The thing that strikes you about the book is the strong, confidently-written voice of Jaxie Clackton, young runaway who is fleeing his brutal father and the consequences of an accident. In fact, this is the only voice that we hear for nearly half the book, which is quite an achievement (and one that Alice in Alice in Wonderland didn’t appreciate- the dearth of pictures or conversations in a book). The full picture of Jaxie’s life emerges only slowly: both what he is running away from, and what he is running to. Meanwhile, Jaxie bashes his way through the hostile Western Australian landscape, until he comes across an old deserted hut.
Jaxie is rough, crude but not a bad kid. When he meets Fintan, who seems to be some type of defrocked priest, he is wary of him, although Fintan seems to take Jaxie as he finds him. The book is violent and seeped through with twisted masculinities. I found myself sitting up late to finish it and when I went to sleep, I was disturbed by the ending.
After my early love affair with Tim Winton with Cloudstreet (on the page, of course) I haven’t found another of his books that captured the magic of the first Winton I ever read. I have found myself tiring of his books about beaches and waves, and broken people. There are broken people in this book too, but this book comes closest, I think, to Cloudstreet in terms of narrative control and voice. So thank you, who-ever put it in the Little Library, and now I shall return it so that someone else can enjoy it too.
My rating: 9 (I think)/10
Sourced from: The Little Library in Macleod Park