Review Blog

Nov 17 2014

Meanjin Crossing by Ian Hamilton

cover image

Xlibris,2014. ISBN 97814909006094
(Age: Senior secondary - adult) This is a story is about the thread that binds us to past and place. For Will, the narrator, it is a thread back to his city's earliest white settlement. This, he relates through the reading of his manuscript to his old friend Mary. In it we hear the story of Jabiru, or Jacky, as the white men call him. Initially his coming to manhood and visit to the Bora Ring, which fascinated Will as a young boy and thence his wandering life. He develops some friendships, in particular with James Bolan, one of the more reasonable and compassionate early settlers.
But this is also the story, even a memoir of Will's life. His childhood in a place he later calls 'a hole called Brisbane' p71, his escape to London and the eventual realisation that no matter how long he stayed, it was a place 'he'd never be part of' p71. And like Jabiru he eventually returns to the place of his birth.
In the present, he visits his old friend who is now suffering from cancer and together they reminisce about a life of fun in the 60s, which Hamilton reveals with accuracy.
That Hamilton knows his place is evident in the plethora of street and place names which so abound in this novel and anyone who has even just visited Brisbane will recognise many of them. But this is integral to the thread of the story. Some places have remained: those physical aspects which Jabiru also gazed upon and those which belong firmly in the modern day but are a strong part of Will's history.
Hamilton also invites the reader to reflect 'about how all our lives are journeys and that they all come to an end' p168, but through his narrative suggesting that perhaps there is still a part that carries on.
Meanjin Crossing clearly recreates a sense of time and place, of innocence and experience but does not lapse into the maudlin or self indulgent. It is just what happened.
Barb Rye

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