Showing posts with label Steven Herrick. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steven Herrick. Show all posts

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

The Bogan Mondrian


The Bogan Mondrian by Steven Herrick, (UQP)  PB RRP $19.95  ISBN: 9780702259982

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

Luke, a Year Eleven student from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’, becomes a catalyst for helping Charlotte, a girl from a wealthy family, address the domestic violence occurring in her home. Steven Herrick chose these backgrounds deliberately because, as he says, domestic violence ‘is an issue that affects people from all classes, races and religions.’

Luke’s father has recently died from cancer. Trying to come to terms with the loss, Luke sleepwalks through each day, wagging school and compulsively taking photos. When he discovers the truth about Charlotte’s home life, he realises that his own life could be worse. Much worse.

This is a powerful story, told by Luke in first-person prose, celebrating courage, compassion and friendship. It is set in Katoomba and the background and characters are clearly Australian.

The book raises questions about what it means to be a man and a father in today’s society.  On the surface Charlotte’s father is a charming, successful business man. His darker side is hinted at, not described in great detail. By contrast, Luke’s father was a gambler, a drinker and smoker -  a rough diamond who adored his family. Luke himself displays unexpected strength and kindness as does his friend, basketball-obsessed Blake.

Steven Herrick is better known for his verse-novels like The Simple Gift. The poet in Herrick is obvious as he doesn’t waste a word and uses some beautiful, evocative images. Although the subject is serious there are many moments of humour between Luke and his mother, and between Luke and a neighbour who’s teaching him to swear in Italian.

The resolution is believable and will have readers cheering. The Bogan Mondrian is highly recommended, especially for boys from Year 8 upwards.

The title might confuse some readers. Here’s the explanation: Charlotte has painted her bedroom walls in squares like a Mondrian painting, turning the room into her retreat from the world. At the end of the book Luke (the bogan) paints his room exactly the same. This time it’s not a retreat, it’s a celebration.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Another Night in Mullet Town

Another Night in Mullet Town by Steven Herrick (University of Queensland Press) PB RRP $19.95 IBBN 9780702253959

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Here is a verse novel from award-winning Australian poet and author, Steven Herrick, which illuminates mateship, family relationships, and navigating life. 

For typical Aussie teenagers, Jonah and Manx, life mainly encompasses fishing (for mullet) at the local Coraki lake, watching -- and joining --school mates party on Friday nights and looking for courage to further develop their relationships with Ella and Rachel. There are other problems, of course, insofar as Jonah’s warring parents are ending their marriage, motherless  Manx has issues, too, and the boys’ lakeside town is about to be sold off to city outsiders for redevelopment. This creates tension in town, especially when someone scrawls graffiti against the Sydney interlopers on the local real estate office owned by newcomers, the Lloyd-Davies.

The story has strong messages which are magnified due to the format of verse with characters and scenes being conveyed in fewer words than that of a conventional novel. Herrick is a master at capturing so much in few words; his writing is crisp and succinct and evocative. There is a strong sense of place in the novel with tight but descriptive language that introduces the creek, the lake, the swamp near Lake Road (site of Manx’s house), the ocean, and the town with its large pensioner population.  Both boys were born in Turon where Jonah’s dad runs the petrol station with its mostly truckie customers and ‘goggle-eyed tourists’ on their way to Balarang Bay.

Herrick’s prose perfectly captures the book’s characters. Here’s a description of Manx as seen through Jonah’s eyes: ‘He walks like a draught-horse pulling a load/his head pushed forward, chin up/and muscular arms hanging by his side./His voice is a few octaves deeper and bass,’ hands the size of boxing gloves,/dark hair sprouting from each of his knuckles.’

In each verse, which has its own sub-title, one aspect of the town or its people, is described. For example, there are the consecutive sections called ‘Vodka Cruisers’ and ‘Broken Glass and Bravado’ where after drinking ‘the night always ends/with broken bottles/piled up on the sand/and all of year ten/wondering who’ll vomit first.’


If you are trying to get a teenager to read – especially a boy – this novel with its terse, and what have been described as ‘iridescent,’ verses, is a great book to encourage him to read. As usual, it’s likely that Another Night in Mullet Town will take out some literary awards.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Simple Gift

The Simple Gift by Steven Herrick (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978 0 7022 3133 9
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

On Steven Herrick’s blog, he stated that his inspiration for The Simple Gift was Bruce Springsteen’s song The Ghost of Tom Joad. As I was reading it, I wondered if Steinbeck was Herrick’s touchstone as he was crafting the narrative. Although set in modern Australia, Herrick covers similar territory to Steinbeck, such as the honour of poverty, the humanity of the most humble and that those who give the most often have nothing themselves.

Told in verse by three different voices, it tells the story of Billy Luckett, a young adult who has drawn life’s short straw. Abused by his father with an absent mother, friendless and failing at school, he chooses to try his luck as a street kid. What might then spiral into a tragedy of substance abuse and crime, Herrick instead takes the story into the unexpected direction of hope and redemption.

Billy ends up living in a disused railway carriage in the town of Bendarat, a thinly disguised Ballarat. He subsists by scavenging on scraps and what he earns for some itinerant work, and revels in his freedom and solitude – days spent between the creek and library. Yet he allows two other souls to enter his life.

Caitlin is a private schoolgirl who annoys her status-conscious parents by mopping floors at Macdonald’s and dreams of the day she turns eighteen and can leave her family. Old Billy, another person who takes advantage of the free accommodation in the disused railway carriages, is an angry man broken by his own tragic past. Yet both are touched by Billy. To Old Bill, he gives the simple gift of a packet of cigarettes, to Caitlin he gives the simple gift of courtesy and a note with the etymology of her name. And with these humble offerings, he starts to reconnect with his fellow humans as each takes tentative steps away from their demons. This is ultimately a story of the healing power of relationships, as the trio all take control of their lives and help Billy in unexpected ways.

Written with sparse language and a light touch, this is YA novel is an uplifting read which I recommend to those who feel disconnected or otherwise alienated from society, and I suggest they read and enjoy it voluntarily before it is imposed on them as a text on the HSC syllabus.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend

Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend by Steven Herrick (UQP)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9780702249280
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Australia's master of free verse, Steven Herrick has excelled himself with his latest release. Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend is the tale of class 6A from a school in a country town. The story is told through multiple perspectives: a number of class members, their teacher and the grounds-keeper.

Herrick has an amazing ability to immediately immerse readers in the story and the characters with such few words. Each of the characters has their own cross to bear, their own joys, frustrations and idiosyncrasies revealed within the wider school and town communities. It is remarkable how Herrick can fit so much into his stories - grief, crushes, loneliness, friendship, love and more. There's no car chases, aliens or amazing gadgets in this book. What you'll find is the ups and downs of life in all its wonder.

I'm unable to pick out a favourite verse and there are so many heart-warming moments it's impossible to list them all. To do so would not do them justice as it in their combination that makes this book so wonderful. I loved all the characters and their foibles and their inner strength. I think maybe Mick was my favourite but then Cameron was gorgeous or Laura ... Once again, impossible to pick.