When Windmill Books sent me one of their new releases to read and review, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Jasper Jones. Or from author Craig Silvey.
But all I can say is that when I woke this morning and realised I’d finished the book last night, and that I wasn’t going on my usual visit to Corrigan over my cornflakes, I felt I was mourning a good friend.
Not least because there were elements inside these pages of my favourite book from my childhood days, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
The hero of this book you would imagine is Jasper Jones. It’s not; it’s the intelligent and sensitive narrator of this tale, thirteen-year-old Charles Bucktin.
Silvey creates some unforgettable characters. Jeffrey Lu, Eliza Wishart, Mad Jack Lionel to name a few. These people were real to me. They had the capacity to entertain and affect me in equal measure. I laughed with them, and cried with them. I felt their fear and sensed their grief. Not an easy task through the eyes of a teenage narrator.
When Charles gets dragged into the biggest crime in history to hit the sleepy Australian mining town of Corrigan, we join him on a roller coaster ride of discoveries, emotional traumas and society failures, which will scar this young boy for the rest of his days.
For a book of this genre, I found Jasper Jones remarkably well plotted and layered. There was nothing linear about a plot that touched on racism at a time of the Vietnam War, bullying and a person’s desire to ‘fit in’, and the danger of prejudice in society. Add to that the gut twisting introduction to first love, and the tragic hidden secrets kept by the most ordinary of families, and you have a story that burns a hole in both your heart and mind.
Craig Silvey has done a brilliant job in building a good against evil plot that has no need for wizards or werewolves. He has crafted a tale that proves evil can be at the heart of the most unlikely communities and that when it spills over it ruins countless lives.
The key words on the cover … Sometimes a book just takes hold … is a brilliant summing up. This book entertained from start to finish. For the past five days, I’ve been eager to get back to life in Corrigan at every opportunity, and this is the biggest compliment I can pay the author.
I hope when published, Jasper and Craig both achieve the success they truly deserve.
I’d like to thank Windmill Books for giving me the opportunity to read such a treasure, and hopefully pick up a writing tip or two along the way.
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey is published by Windmill on 30 April 2010.