I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Fremantle Press in exchange for some publicity and an honest review. I am so grateful to the publisher for sending me out this gem. This edition is published on April 1st 2019, but originally this title was published in 2009, so if you like the sound of it, you are able to get your hands on it!
As always, here is your disclaimer about my Review & Ramblings posts, this review includes spoilers, if you haven’t read this book and are planning to, please pop over to my spoiler-free review on GoodReads, HERE.
Boy on a Wire – Jon Doust
Published April 1st 2019 by Fremantle Press
Wow, this book is so incredibly Australian. But I love that about it. Written by an Australian, about Australian people and published by an Australian Publishing Agency. I love it! It is one of my goals for 2019 to read more books by Australian Authors and this is my second one for February!
I read the first page and instantly knew that this book was going to leave me in a puddle of tears by the end of it. But I was wrong, I should have said second chapter. What an incredibly hard life our protagonist has, he knows he is different, he knows he is softer than his brother and father, yet he does things that he doesn’t want to, to please them. He is extremely religious, he uses it to cope with the world that he is living in, it gives him structure and hope, until it doesn’t, and God listens to his inner thoughts and it gives him what he wants… almost. All within the first two chapters. I am already so invested in this boys’ life (I haven’t been told his name yet), I want good things for him.
I am about halfway through this book now, and I am starting to see just now naïve, Jack is. But that isn’t entirely his own fault. His family have molly-coddled him and sheltered him and taught him to only learn what God has to teach him. They didn’t teach him anything about his body, or about socialising or what behaviours are acceptable and what aren’t. They are putting it down to ‘Pinks Disease’… Which they describe as mercury poisoning from when he was a child, and the scary thing about that is that they are saying that it was common for mercury to be found in milk formula, in baby toys, on teething rings, all the things that babies would put in their mouths and in their bodies. In essence, it has caused him to have a learning delay, difficulty understanding societal norms and expectations and not being able to grasp education at the rate that he is expected to. Yes, his disease is at fault for a large part of his deficit, but his parents are equally at fault.
I can’t help but feel like this book isn’t really going anywhere, yes Jack is progressing, we see that in every turn of the page, but day in, day out, it is the same content, Jack waking up, going to school, suffering some type of humiliation or physical reprimand, eating tea and returning to his dorm. I just wish something else would happen already. Also, the pacing is incredibly slow, it makes it feel like I have been reading for much longer than I have, which takes some of the enjoyment out of the book. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the extreme Australian-ness of it, the slang and the overall feel, but I do wish it would speed up and that something would happen!
So I finally finished this book, and unfortunately, it didn’t pick up. And I struggled to re-engage with the book after taking a short break from it. (I went back to work).
I wanted to love this book. I wanted it to show the other side of Australia, the side that books often overlook. In that respect I got what I wanted, this book is raw and gritty and on many levels, emotionally charged. But for me, I truly felt as though it was too long, that there were so many chapters that just felt like they were re-worded repeats of previous chapters. I couldn’t connect with the protagonist past the first 30 pages. I felt a real connection to him early in the book, I wanted him to do well, to escape the world of his mother and father and make something of himself, and when he got to boarding school, I thought that was his chance, but he didn’t and it wasn’t. But I guess that is the point of the book. To show how life repeats, to show how socio-economic status and culture works. I struggled also with the writing style, it is incredibly slow paced, but the chapters are so short, it sort of makes up for the pacing. I like the short chapters, you can read one in under three minutes.
I do feel a little guilty for not liking this book. I requested it from the lovely people at Fremantle Press in exchange for some publicity and a honest review, but I wish it could have been more positive.
On closing, I loved the Australian-ness of this novel, I just wish there was more content and less repetition.
Thanks for reading.