Albert of Adelaide by Howard L Anderson
|Albert of Adelaide by Howard L Anderson|
|Genre: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Its initial appearance as an Aussie The Wind in the Willows soon gives way to a tale for adults packed with entertainment, insight, pathos and a satirical punch. It's been called a ménage a trois that involved Watership Down, True Grit, and Mad Max, but on this evidence, that's a good thing.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: July 2012|
|Publisher: Serpent's Tail|
Albert the Duck-Billed Platypus lives in an Adelaide zoo but knows there's more to life than this. There must be as he's heard the stories. Somewhere beyond the cages is Old Australia, a land of dreams where there are no zoos and no human captors, just animals who are free to govern themselves and live in perpetual peace and happiness. That's a world that Albert wants to be a part of and so he escapes, realising that for the first time in his short life his future is in his own webbed paws.
If anyone had told me that I would become smitten with a book for adults about a platypus's adventures amongst other animals, some of which drink and gamble and all of whom wear clothes, I may have been too polite to voice my reaction, but smitten I am. It all begins in an unassuming way as Albert sets off on what's essentially a road trip during which he has adventures with those whom he encounters; and what encounters! Jack the Swag… wombat… with pyrotechnic tendencies, Roger and Alvin the argumentative bandicoots, Sing Sing O'Hanlon species-ist bartender, Terrance James Walcott migrant racoon and the rest all deserve iconic status. I would elaborate but you'd be here all week reading my gushing prose so it would be quicker for you to read the book instead.
As the story unfolds further layers kick in and you don't need to read Howard L Anderson's diverse CV on his author's notes to realise that this is a man who has seen sights and heard stories. Seeing and hearing is one thing, but here they're not only recalled and recaptured but he seasons them with wisdom, wit and allegorical depth along with a real feel for Australia. There are cutting comments on the press, marketing and profiteering from violence to name just a few topics that he's endowed with sentiments that we'll all recognise. Indeed this is almost a modern Animal Farm, the difference not being in the high quality but in the fact that this is about everyday life and modern culture rather than a political regime.
By the way, I should mention that this is definitely a book for grown-ups as there are scenes of battle and gore. These become more poignant when we realise that they're written by a man who has the experiential t-shirt via Vietnam.
Speaking of poignancy, his use of language to animate our imagination and orchestrate our emotions is superb. A week after finishing the book I still become teary when remembering a particular paragraph (no spoilers!) and evidence of his talent also continues through the characterisation. One particular character had me roaring with laughter, then anger and the desire to throttle him and finally reducing me to empathetic tears. Mr Anderson doesn't seem to do two-dimensional.
During a recent interview the author was asked his ambition. His response? To live long enough to write a second novel. I have a feeling that's not a selfish target. Indeed I'm sure many who get the opportunity to read his first novel will even hope he accomplishes a third.
I would like to thank Serpent's Tail for providing Bookbag with a copy of this book for review.
If this has whetted your appetite for another animal-based story set in Australia, we suggest Red Dog by Louis de Bernieres.
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