Review Blog

Apr 05 2013

Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko

cover image

Unversity of Queensland Press, 2013. ISBN 9780702239199.
(Age: Senior secondary - adult) The intriguing cover of Mullumbimby signals an absorbing story. The beautifully photographed image of rusty barbed wire around a bird's nest is a metaphor for Jo's life. Of Bundjalung descent, she has recently bought back some of her people's land and this is the catalyst for meeting new people and starting different strands in her life.
Jo gets together with gorgeous, dreadlocked Twoboy who is spear-heading native title claims. The Goories from Brisbane are also claiming native title and there is an ominous expectation of war between 'blackfellas'. The battle for land becomes personal for Jo; particularly when her beloved colt, Comet, is entangled in wire fencing on what she believes is her land. This scene is one of the most shocking and memorable in the novel. Jo's daughter, Ellen, is a talented artist who uses Aboriginal elements and knowledge of country in her work. The characters' links with the country embody the spiritual and mystical elements of the story. Indigenous author, Melissa Lucashenko steeps her story in Indigenous lore, particularly with the ancestors, who are still part of life.
Place is paramount in this novel. The town of Mullumbimby (nicknamed Mullum), near Byron Bay in northern NSW, is obviously well-known and described. Here, as in many places, parents have to keep their children alive. 'Just keep the jahjam breathing and hope remains.' Bundjalung and Yugambeh languages are interspersed with Aboriginal English at times.
The adult content - sex, drugs and swearing - limit this novel to mature secondary readers but, overall, it has great value for its insight into Indigenous Australia.
Joy Lawn

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