Review Blog

Feb 24 2009

Hunting elephants by James Roy

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Woolshed Press, 2008. ISBN 978174166326.
(Age 12+) Forced to attend his uncle's wedding, Harry is scathing of the man he has rarely seen. He had been going to a friend's party. The long drive to his uncle's farm is a strain, and when the family arrives, they find that mum, even with her knowhow on the internet, has somehow mistaken the bookings. They must stay with Uncle Frank. Into this simmering pot, comes the uncle, holding down the memories and frightening experiences of the Vietnam War, his fourth wedding already putting extra tension on the already overcrowded home.
Here too, Harry meets his cousin, Trent, a brooding, sulky young man with an unhealthy interest in guns. Harry sees his uncle retreat to a dilapidated caravan behind the house and it surprises him that the man should go there when he has a beautiful ranch style farm house to live in. His interest takes a turn when approaching the van, he finds the lock open and he goes inside.
James Ray has an easy flowing style which gathers in the readers, giving little snippets of information about the family, but leaving the reader wanting to find out more. His characters are rounded and believable, everyday people buffeted by things which have happened in their lives, but coping as best they can. Harry's family has suffered the death of a son and brother. Each is coping in whatever way they can, mum wraps herself up in her work, keeping her son's room as it was, Harry is anguished because he believes that he hastened his brother's death and dad tries to keep all together. It is a family with undercurrents of anxiety and overwhelming anguish. Hostilities break out regularly but are submerged as quickly as they surface, each person unwilling to have a full discussion about the issue.
The elephant in the room, the issue which is between people and will cause even more tension when exposed, is there in bucket loads. How James Ray resolves the story is fascinating and involving, grabbing the reader until the last line.
Fran Knight

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