Book review: Wimmera by Mark Brandi

I’ve heard Mark Brandi talk at a few writers festivals and enjoyed listening to him, so finally got around to picking up his book Wimmera.

The river

It’s a story about two boys who grew up together in western Victoria in the 1980’s and it exposes dark secrets harboured in a small country town at a time when young adolescents had a lot of freedom and people trusted one another, sometimes a little too much. It shows how kids struggle with how to deal with their own emotions and those of adults who behave badly.

One of the things I found most interesting about this story was how Brandi used his characters change of voice through the work to show the boys at different ages. The first part is told in the voice of young Ben and provides a fascinating insight into the inner workings of adolescent country boys as they navigate growing up. I found the boys fascination with tits and body parts as their hormones raged mildly annoying but admired its realism.

Majesty

Brandi takes us through the story at a pace akin to how life in the country moves and meanders his way to a slow reveal. He uses great restraint in his writing and while he holds back many details, he provides enough of a sense of what’s going to make you wish it wasn’t.

In the second part of the story the two main characters Ben and Fab are in their early twenties and Fab is the narrator. He works at the supermarket, longs after a barmaid married to a man who doesn’t treat her well, and yearns for better things in life.

Ben and Fab meet up again just when Fab has decided to take a risk and try to make a go of moving to the city. The dark sinister secret that has been lurking in the background of the story is revealed when a body is found in the river, and before Fab leaves for the big smoke the boys find themselves caught up in a police investigation.

Cairn

Brandi handles the subject of child sexual abuse delicately, exposes the power relationship between children and adults from a child’s point of view and the lasting scars that can change the course of a child’s life. He provides enough information to know things are wrong but leaves the graphic details to the imagination of the reader. It took me a while to read the first part of the book, but it’s a compelling read and the change of pace in the second half had me racing to the end. I notice he has a new book out called The Rip, so will have to read that one also.

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