2015: And The Winner Is...

on Thursday, December 31, 2015

Late last year I was handed a book, hot off the presses, that was to be released in April by the consistently excellent and criminally underrated small Australian publisher Transit Lounge. I should declare at the outset that I know its author. He works at my local bookstore. We talk. Lots. Indeed, it's fair to say we have very similar literary tastes and sensibilities and could probably crap on about Kafka until the cows come home (emaciated, dying of consumption and loneliness). I've also very much liked his previous work, especially the novella Bruno Kramzer. Pushing all that aside, I did my best to come to the book with little expectation. There is nothing worse than being handed a novel by a friend and then scrambling to find words to cover your disappointment/disapproval/utter disdain. Indeed, I was so worried I'd hate it that, despite having it in draft form on my desk for several months, I never dared to crack it open.

Well, it is with great relief and excitement that I can say that I was an absolute idiot. AS Patrić's Black Rock White City is not only an extraordinary novel but I'd go so far to say that it is a modern Australian classic. It is also my Bait For Bookworms Book of the Year.

The story of Jovan and Suzana sheds profound new light on the Australian immigrant experience though to limit it to the category of immigrant novel would be like saying Anna Karenina is about potato farming. Rather, Black Rock White City is the new benchmark in books about outer suburban Australian life. Never before have I seen my own city so insightfully portrayed as this. Patrić truly understands the way the city has changed with the most recent waves of immigration and charts it in subtle, perceptive ways. Hell, I reckon that Black Rock White City taught me new things about the place I've called home for thirty-something years (or at least lifted the curtain on aspects of it).

This isn't just some parochial fanboy rave, either. Critics nationwide, in pretty much all the major newspapers and literary magazines, have been falling over themselves to heap praise on this extraordinary book. It's really no surprise. Patrić is honest, at times brutal, funny and very smart in the way he plays out the central drama of 'strangers' negotiating a new life against a perfectly authentic portrayal of bayside Melbourne. I was totally captivated by Jovan and Suzana, not just as characters, but as people I know are out there quietly sacrificing their dignity for my comfort. Their shared fate, their journey back to a love that had been torn away from them in horrible circumstance, is one you will care deeply about. As you will about almost every aspect of this book. Gorgeous and spare, Black Rock White City is one of the few books I've ever read three times. I somehow suspect I will return to it again. And again. And again.

See my original review of BRWC here.

Happy New Year fellow Bookworms! Until next we meet, happy reading.


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