Review Blog

Mar 07 2017

Old growth by John Kinsella

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Transit Lounge, 2017. ISBN 9780994395788
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Evocative, intense, and shocking at times, John Kinsella, in this collection of short stories, takes this medium into its absolute best. His constructed worlds seem utterly real, reflecting life as it is today, in the big city, in small towns and in the Australian countryside. Within the style of this medium, he plunges us, seemingly, directly into the real lives of the characters in his little vignettes of the modern world.
In this world, peopled by Indigenous Australians, people who have lived here for generations, and people who are newer arrivals, we are immediately aware of the struggle to survive, to make good lives, or to repair their lives. For some this is not simple, and for many the relationships are damaged, seemingly beyond repair. We hear, in the language that is always apt, the language of children and of adults, the vernacular, the formal communication and the country accent, each reflecting the small worlds that he creates.
Kinsella does not let us off lightly in this collection. Depicting sometimes raw, painful, hurtful, shattering, unsettling relationships and events, Kinsella plunges us into the worlds that he creates to reflect the issues that face us all today and to depict just how difficult it is to make sense of the challenges that this world places before us. We read about the boy who digs a tunnel, living mostly in his own small world and seemingly unobserved. Kinsella challenges us to spend time in his sometimes brutal worlds, or the worlds of slow speech, 'Okay darl' says Beth while a robber is asking her to open the till in the hotel! We slow down with this character, who is unfazed by the situation. Kinsella evokes memories, joy, humour and some element of the tough reality of modern life in his imaginative reconstruction of today's Australia.
Despite the darkness of his world at times, he evokes joy and delight in the reader, and this is at the heart of his storytelling, that quality of shared history, of connectedness, and it is in his human reaction to relationships that he presents a salve for the bruised souls whose lives he has placed, raw, blunt and sometimes horrifying, before us. Kinsella's vivid worlds, his characterization, and his absolutely delightful, lucid prose are a gift to modern readers.
Liz Bondar

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