Review: Craig Silvey’s “Jasper Jones”

by writereaderly

craig silvey jasper jonesI think this was a very good book but I didn’t love it; I’m not sure why. I’d seen it on assorted people’s shelves, then the First Tuesday Bookclub readers got all excited about it, so eventually I gave into the pressure and snaffled a copy as overtime pay. It’s an exploration of mateship and truth and loyalty; nerdy hero Charlie helps town outcast Jasper Jones in a brutally difficult situation; the Vietnam War is on, and race relations in small-town Corrigan, WA, are vile. Add his Vietnamese best mate Jeffrey Lu (NO 12 year old speaks like that, I tell you!) and his love interest Eliza Wishart, and you have the ingredients for the plot. The characters are by and large believable, the town is skilfully evoked, the plotting thorough, Charlie’s relationships are well established, the fear and torment suffered by so many is palpable. It’s a harsh world to spend your summer holidays in at 13. The book even got stronger as it progressed, but I still didn’t love it. I think it was only set in 1966 because you were told so, not because the time or Aussie lingo of the time was called up. I think the teenagers were unrealistically precocious and word-savvy (JJ really used the word “comport” as an undereducated 14yo indigenous boy?). I think it was good, and craftful, and quite gripping, but something about it just didn’t convince me at the end of the day. I reckon it’s worth reading to see for yourself.

Where it came from: UPB
Time and manner of reading:
One big travelly read
Where it went: AJM
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Readers after a good bit of contemporary Australiana
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper; Belonging by bell hooks