Review Blog

Aug 03 2016

Another night in mullet town by Steven Herrick

cover image

UQP, 2016. ISBN 9780702253959
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Verse novel, Country town, Fishing, Humour. A new verse novel by Herrick is always eagerly anticipated and reading this reminded me why I like his books so much. I find that I stop over each line, drawing breath at the wider implications of what is written there, marveling at his economy of description, acute characterisation and restrained emotional detail.
In this story two boys, Jonah and Manx are in year ten, able to see beneath the veneer of their sleepy seaside town and willing to embark on what life may offer. They spend a lot of time fishing, drinking with the others on Friday nights, looking at the girls who have been their constant companions since kindergarten, but seem now out of reach.
Jonah realises that the arguments between his parents have intensified and one night his mother packs to go and stay with her sister at a nearby town. Jonah counts up the number in his class with a single parent and sees he is not alone.
The other side of the river sees old houses bought up by city people, then demolished and holiday houses built in their place. They lie idle for a greater part of the year and contribute nothing to the ever shrinking community. The town is on the decline, overshadowed by a larger and more attractive seaside town some k's north where they go to school.
But one Friday night, Manx goes back to the town by himself, Rachel goes off with Angelo, and Jonah and Ella come together. Each incident creates possibilities and consequences for the two boys, ones which will see them become more at peace with who they are, where they are living and their enduring friendship.
The small community is exquisitely drawn, with Manx's fishing line hanging from his front verandah, the old fish and chip shop now a coffee shop for the blow ins, the old grocery store a real estate agency complete with black BMW. It is redolent of so many country towns, but Herrick's funny warmhearted depiction of the place and its inhabitants gives all readers a fresh way of looking at the villages they pass through.
Fran Knight

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