Review Blog

Jun 12 2012

Eleven seasons by Paul D. Carter

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Allen and Unwin, 2012, 9781742379715.
(Ages: 14-18) Recommended. This year's Vogel Prize winner, awarded annually to an unpublished novel by a writer under 35, is a coming-of-age story. The reader follows the progress of Jason Dalton through late childhood, adolescence and early adulthood across eleven seasons of Australian Rules football. In Year 7 the fatherless Jason is sustained by football; trips to the AFL games with his friend, his collection of football cards, his obsession with his team, Hawthorn, help him through the lonely hours in his apartment. His mother is loving but works double shifts in the hope of buying a house, so she is either at work or sleeping. Jason does his list of chores and goes to bed alone in the apartment every night. At school he is a poor student, dreamy and unfocused, his teachers say, and it is true that he is not interested in school. He is passionate about building his footy skills; he keeps a record of his solo practice sessions; marks, kicks, push-ups, passes are all recorded. His mother eventually allows him to join a club although she is clearly against him playing. He bonds with the club, the coaches and players, and is recognized as having talent and courage. He survives school but more importantly for him he flourishes in the football world, which in time includes after game drinking and marijuana. After thousands of workouts and training sessions he is selected for the Hawthorn Under-Nineteens. His team wins the Premiership, but this is the night when his mother tells him that his father, a promising football hero, had raped her and that, pregnant, she had to leave her home town. Devastated, Jason leaves Melbourne and football. He wastes several years on the Gold Coast where drugs and alcohol become too important. When he returns he has to accept his history, learn how to relate positively to others, particularly women, and to rebuild his relationship with his mother. He plays football again, at the District level for money, finds work in bars and once more becomes part of after game partying until he witnesses a gang rape. He decides to travel to his mother's home town to find his father or least settle some questions. The character of Jason is well-established and believable; he is subject to the temptations of teenage boys and often succumbs to them, yet his mother's early care leaves its mark. The football games, including Hawthorn Premiership wins in the 1990s are described in detail, more interesting to some than others, but this is the kind of obsessive detail that fans would perhaps relate to. The writer's voice is sure and the language appropriate. Boys, and girls, who love football will probably love this if they can sit down long enough to read it. Recommended for middle level and senior readers.
Jenny Hamilton

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