I had been putting off reading this Phillip Gwynne novel… I started it several years ago and abandoned it due to its heavy focus on football. So when I found it on the text list at my new school, I was far from enthused. So, with heavy heart (and drooping eyelids) I made a begrudging start.
After I got past the initial football phase, I actually found some interesting ideas in this novel. Yes, again we have an exploration of the power of football in determining social status in small country towns in Australia. But this is further complicated by the racial issues surrounding the town, and the narrator’s growing concerns about that which he previously took for granted. In making Aboriginal friends, he can no longer accept the casual – and times blatant – racism of his family and friends.
I now find myself looking forward to delving into issues of family, identity and Australianness. Yes, we have more bogan stereotypes here, but at least the main character questions them (to a degree). Although writing with so much slang is a danger – words lose power and influence as time passes and some phrases begin to appear downright daggy. Gwynne has managed to avoid too much of this, but cannot escape it entirely.
I am unsurprised there is a follow up. This feels unfinished. Blacky, the main character, just begins his story in this novel. But even with my prejudices, I enjoyed the read which says a lot.