Thursday 1 May 2014

Coal Creek by Alex Miller

When his father dies, Bobby Blue decides to leave the Mount Hay cattle station where they worked side by side and take a job in town as the new constable's offsider. Daniel, the constable, his wife Esme and their two girls, Irie and Miriam, are new to the western country and, struggling to understand its inhabitants, invite Bobby to stay in a hut on their property where he is educated alongside their daughters.

But there's a simmering tension, building quietly and strongly, beneath the overt goodwill. And when first Irie then Miriam become involved in a dispute that threatens violence, there's an abrupt and ruthless change in attitude from Daniel and Esme towards Bobby.

Coal Creek by Alex Miller is published by Allen & Unwin (Atlantic) on 1 May 2014.

Bobby Blue is a stockman from Mount Hay, a small community in the Australian outback. When Bobby's father dies he decides that he doesn't want to carry on in the same profession and accepts the job as offsider to Constable Daniel Collins.   Daniel and his wife Esme have moved up from the coast with their two children Irie and Miriam.  The outback is a whole new life for them. Bobby is welcomed into the family and young Irie becomes his teacher, showing him words and books.

Ben is Bobby's childhood friend. A different man, wild and a little untamed. Daniel expects that Ben and Daniel Collins will meet one day, they do, and Bobby struggles with where his loyalties should lie.

Coal Creek is narrated in Bobby Blue's slow drawl. He doesn't have a lot of words to say, but those he does are insightful and reveal and a surprising and unexpected depth of character.

Simply told, with not a word wasted this novel brings to life a rich landscape and a young man very cleverly. Miller's descriptive writing allows the reader to almost experience life in the 1950s outback, surrounded by people who speak their mind, simply and to the point. Uneducated as Bobby Blue may be, his voice and his insight into people and circumstances show emotion and feeling far beyond his experience.

With a powerful theme of male friendship, loyalties, betrayals and ultimately love; Coal Creek is a short but meaningful read told with feeling and a real sense of authenticity.

Alex Miller has twice won the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award. Australia's premier literary prize; the first occasion in 1993 for The Ancestor Game, and again in 2003 for Journey to the Stone Country. He is also an overall winner of the Commenwealth Writer's Prize, for the Ancestor Game, in 1993. British by birth, he now lives in Victoria.

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