On the lookout for work, shearers Lewis McCleod and Painter Hayes arrive at Drysdale Downs, the West Australian station belonging to John Drysdale. Lewis has been under Painter's wing since he was just a lad, but when he meets John's daughter Clara, everything is going to change.
Unflinching in its examination of the 1950s repressive male culture of rural Australia, this simple story with its strong and convincing characters, is enhanced by its reverent observation of the outback.
Winner of the Ockham NZ Book for fiction 2016. [Larger font]
Very mixed reviews from our group. Very few read it right through as the language was off-putting (and unnecessary) but possibly appropriate for the era. An interesting writing style linking the dingoes with the human characters and if thought about deeply enough, a love story between various characters, both human and animal. Needs to come with a "health" warning abut the coarse language!
Our group found the book riveting.
Wow, what a book! This was a hard book set in very harsh surroundings with hard men as the main characters. One lady didn't like or read it, one lady read it but still didn't like it but the rest of us loved it - if you could love a story like this. Great discussion! The language was bad but that is what it would've been like in hard times, especially after the war and a drought and especially between men. This book was confrontational and not everyone would like it but the majority of us really did. Some struggled with the dingo story but it was a parallel and made for more discussion.
Those who persevered and read the whole of the book found it compelling and well written, going so far as to suggest that it should be read in large chunks to get into the rhythm of the narrative. Several were put off by the violence and language in the first few chapters.
Mixed reaction. Some were put off by the violence in the first chapters and did not read on, or skipped through the rest of the book. Others persevered and thought it was very good, well edited and with deep themes and powerful messages - a very clever author. Good discussion!
2 members did not like the early pages, and didn't continue reading. The rest all read it, and liked it for its very real account of those days in earlier times in the Australian outback!
General consensus was that it was a difficult start to the book, but we persevered and appreciated it. 50% thought it wonderful and amazing. 50% thought it was very good. Some had problems with the style, others thought the style was ideal for the story, and appropriate to the way the characters would communicate...
Firstly, we loved the book. We found, despite the minimalist prose, Daisley painted a huge picture of the harshness of post WW2 outback Australia and the transient life of the disenfranchised who roamed these areas looking for work. He created a clear image of the ruggedness of the land, the relationship of the 2 main characters and the camaraderie of the shearing shed. We decided that the dingo story mimicked the transient lives of McCleod and Hayes. Daisley captured the shocking, primal nature of the era leading to a long thought-provoking discussion amongst our group.
The more we discussed this book, the more we found there was to discuss. How cleverly crafted it was. A great depiction of the time and place. Several of us 'hooked' from the 1st page. I would not have been surprised if the red dust of Western Australia fell out of the pages!
The group was split over this book. Some didn't finish it, as they either found it hard to engage with or they found the language offensive. This led to a discussion on swear words and shearers as many of the group are from rural backgrounds. Those that enjoyed it found that descriptions of the landscape and situations were very vivid. The dingo story was polarising, but the group decided that they reflected the indigenous people of the area both in patterns set up over many generations, as well as their ultimate demise at the hands of the farming community.
Most of our group really enjoyed this story. Although the dingo's point of view was initially off-putting, it became a powerful part of the story. We enjoyed reading about the people, the animals, and the land and life in 1950s Australia.
We had mixed opinions on the book. Several found it wasn't for them and didn't finish reading it. Those who did really enjoyed it - the writer's approach and the settings and characters. A good 'Aussie read'. Some of us who grew up on farms related to the outback location. We found the notes and questions for discussion to be excellent.
A simple tale well told. The author was skilful in evoking an era (50s rural Australia), an archetype ( male labourers) and the landscape ( a touch of Tim Winton here). Generated lively discussion.