Review Blog

Jun 02 2014

Dead dog in the still of the night by Archimede Fusillo

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Ford St Publishing, 2014. ISBN 9781925000344.
(Age: 14+) Reluctant readers. As the son of Italian immigrants growing up in Melbourne, it is no surprise that Archimede Fusillo's work often features an Italian flavour and with more than a nod to his own adolescence.
About his first book Sparring with Shadows Archie wrote 'I have tried to show that boys do have emotions, are vulnerable, and that it is acceptable to express their feelings. There is a constant duality of feeling one way and having to appear another.'
His new book with the eerie title continues this theme and once again focuses on a character struggling to come to terms with many conflicting feelings. Primo is the youngest son of a family with strong personalities, long held resentments and simmering sibling rivalry. His domineering and womanising father is reduced to an old man suffering dementia and in a nursing home, though still exerting his influence on the family. Primo's mother is trying to come to terms with her long-suffering of her husband's many infidelities, his middle brother has become embroiled himself in an ugly separation due to his own indiscretion and also facing the wrath of his mistress and her drug dealing brother, his older brother wants to sell off the old man's mechanical workshop and take possession of his prized classic Fiat 500 and Primo is dealing with his final year at school and a disintegrating relationship with his girlfriend, Maddie.
The immaculately preserved scarlet Fiat becomes a focal point of the story. 'I want to buy a car. A special one. A Bambino. Red. Red for speed. Red for the sex.' While Primo's family might think this statement of their father reflects upon his philandering, it becomes apparent that this one thought had sustained him from his peasant childhood until its fulfilment. For Primo the car represents adulthood and independence as well as being his father's prized possession. For older brother Santo, it is a classic cash cow - ripe for the picking.
When Primo 'borrows' the car to impress his girlfriend and then prangs it, he is desperate for money to repair it before anyone finds out. Brother Adrian's peccadillo with his adultery provides an opportunity for Primo to warn off the scorned lover, Crystal, with the promise of payment for services rendered albeit not in the way Adrian had envisaged. Tangled and intricate, the plot unravels with miscommunications, wrong perceptions, hidden emotions and gritty realistic episodes. While the media release suggest this book is suitable for readers 10 and up, my own recommendation would be for older boys - perhaps 14 and on. There are numerous references to drugs, sex, violence, strong language and adult concepts. Heaven sent for some of my own reluctant Year 10 readers.
Sue Warren

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