Review Blog

Apr 01 2019

The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

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Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760631871.
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Themes: Culture; Family relationships; Cross-cultural identity; Beliefs; Dreams and reality; Indian Australians; Decisions and their consequences; Identity; Death and dying. Neil Grant writes with great elegance and an impressive light touch in this poignant and stirring story of a teen, Rudra, who is coming to grips with his place in Australian society and the world. Rudra is the son of Cord Solace, a hard Aussie fisherman and Nayna Solace, his Indian wife. Nayna met Cord while she was pursuing University study in Australia and her relationship with Cord is now, ironically, frayed - the consequence of his emotional abuse. Nayna is no longer treated as an intelligent woman, and their financial circumstances are fraught. Family tension is almost palpable and Rudra is also impacted by his father's heavy-handed manner.
Rudra is trapped in a strange land where his appearance identifies him as a 'foreigner', and yet he knows very little of his mother's homeland. His best friend is an 'honest-as-the-day-is-long' Aussie teenager, exploring surfing and speaking truths that always push boundaries but never seem to offend. He also has an important listening ear in his father's dirt-poor 'salt-of-the-earth' deckhand. When Rudra's Indian grandmother (Didima) arrives, the stories she tells of his Indian forbears weaves a connection to the hidden story of his Australian ancestry with a mystical quality and some dream-like and spiritual overtones. Her stay and the sadness that follows, awakens the possibility of connecting to his Indian heritage and eventually leads him to discover the cultural maelstrom of West Bengal itself. This thrusts him into an adventure to restore what has been damaged over generations, but the risks are high.
With Indian Honeymen on sunken islands, hunters who kill tigers and the confronting nature of Indian society and cultural and spiritual beliefs, flowing in and under the wash of the ocean and the capture of ocean creatures in difficult circumstances, this is a book that is so much more than a simple narrative. Metaphor and lyrical language and the cross-cultural understanding of different cultures and belief systems adds to the power and intensity of this book. And yet it is essentially a story of the difficulty of growing into one's own skin and knowing who you really are. On many levels this is a story that should be savoured for readers who like to think! It would make a brilliant book for Senior English students to study and discuss, and it is wonderful to have a book for Indian Australians to connect with. Teacher notes are available.
Carolyn Hull

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