Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Jasper Jones
by Craig Silvey
Allen & Unwin, 2009 

About The Book
Late on a hot summer night in the tail end of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleep-out. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress.
Jasper takes him through town and to his secret glade in the bush, and it's here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper's horrible discovery. With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushed and pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion as he locks horns with his tempestuous mother; falls nervously in love and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffrey Lu. 
And in vainly attempting to restore the parts that have been shaken loose, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth, and why white lies creep like a curse. In the simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.

My Thoughts
I read Rhubarb by Craig Silvey a couple of years ago and I loved it. So I was torn about reading Jasper Jones. Could he follow Rhubarb with something just as good? I got a taste of what the book would be like when I saw Craig speak at the Sydney Writer's festival in 2009. He spoke about the Batman question and the hypothetical "would you rathers" that appear in the book. I still resisted reading it. 

What is it about these Western Australian writers that they have such a command of language? Tim Winton, Randolph Stow and Craig Silvey to name but three, all have an amazing way with words.

So what did I think of Jasper Jones?...

I LOVED IT!!! I just don't have the vocabulary to describe how great I think this book is. Actually I'm feeling a bit sorry for everyone around me because for the past couple of days I've been like "You have to read this book!!" I can't wait to talk about it in book club!

So, why do I like it so much? Do you know, I'm not even sure how to describe it. I just finished the book and thought it was awesome.  I think it was just the combination of engaging characters, tension and a good story. 

I really liked Jeffrey Lu who is Charlie's best friend. He is Vietnamese, a cricket tragic and has a quirky sense of humour. I really liked the rapport between him and Charlie. I think what most impressed me was that he was tenacious. He loved cricket and knew that he was good at it, but the town's team wouldn't let him join. They pushed and shoved him when he joined in training. They hit his ball across the oval even if they missed, so he would have to go and get it. He would go and get his ball, and wouldn't complain or shove back when they pushed him. Then they hit his ball out of the oval into a paddock that they can't get to.
Jeffrey remains unperturbed. As though he were simply undone by fair play. And they're still spitting words at him as he hoists his bag, but I don't want to listen anymore. I just want to go. Jeffrey walks towards me. There are grass clippings in his hair.
His head is bowed as he approaches. But when he gets closer to me, his face lifts and splits into a smile.
'Did you see that first ball? Drifted in, spun out. Bang! Top of off! Thanks very much.' He spreads his hands like the ball actually exploded off the pitch.p 64
 What an example is that!! Of course I got frustrated at the blatant racism of it... but he didn't. I'm not sure how many 13 year old boys would behave like he did.

I really liked the way that Corrigan, the town where the book is set, seems like a character in the story. It's the way the tension of the missing girl, and the economic trouble at the mine, and the racial tension that it causes, affects the community. How the street comes together to look after the Lu family when things go to far, or the fear that the Bucktin's felt when Charlie was missing from his room. 

There was also a touch of romance with the blossoming of the relationship between Charlie and Eliza Wishart, sister of the missing girl Laura. It is a sweet story, but tinged by the fact that Charlie knows something that he can't tell Eliza, or Jeffrey for that matter. 

Then there's the enigmatic Jasper Jones. 

I'm not sure that I've said enough about it to convince you to read it... But please do and let me know what you think about it.

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