26 November 2017

Review: WIMMERA, Mark Brandi

  • this edition published 2017 by Hachette Australia
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-3845-9
  • 262 pages
  • source: my local library
  • winner of a variety of awards including 2016 CWA Debut Dagger (UK)
Synopsis (publisher)

In the long, hot summer of 1989, Ben and Fab are best friends.

Growing up in a small country town, they spend their days playing cricket, yabbying in local dams, wanting a pair of Nike Air Maxes and not talking about how Fab's dad hits him or how the sudden death of Ben's next-door neighbour unsettled him. Almost teenagers, they already know some things are better left unsaid.

Then a newcomer arrived in the Wimmera. Fab reckoned he was a secret agent and he and Ben staked him out. Up close, the man's shoulders were wide and the veins in his arms stuck out, blue and green. His hands were enormous, red and knotty. He looked strong. Maybe even stronger than Fab's dad. Neither realised the shadow this man would cast over both their lives.

Twenty years later, Fab is still stuck in town, going nowhere but hoping for somewhere better. Then a body is found in the river, and Fab can't ignore the past any more.

My take

This novel depicts life in a small town in Victoria at the end of the 1980s very well. Ben and Fab are at primary school, best mates, and then a man moves into the house next door to Ben's family. He seems to monopolise such a lot of Ben's time and he makes Fab uncomfortable.

And then primary school finishes and Ben goes off to secondary school in a different town and the boys hardly see each other. Twenty years later Fab still lives with his mother and his life generally seems to have reached an all time low.

Part One of the novel is told in Ben's young voice while Part Two is told by the adult Fab.  It is a clever technique. The reader wonders what it was that estranged the boys from each other. In Part Three we put together the secret they have been keeping for twenty years.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Mark Brandi has been published, broadcast and shortlisted in journals and competitions both locally and overseas. Originally from Marche, growing up Italian in a rural Victorian town influences much of his work. Mark graduated from a criminal justice degree and his career includes roles as a policy advisor and project officer in the Department of Justice, before changing direction and deciding to write. Mark's writing has appeared in THE GUARDIAN, THE AGE, the BIG ISSUE, and is often broadcast on Radio National. He is the winner of the 2016 UK Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger for his first novel, WIMMERA, which he developed during two residential fellowships at Varuna.

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