Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
|Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey|
|Genre: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: Two boys share a dreadful secret. As the repercussions take their toll on the boys, their families and the town, there are grave and unexpected consequences all round.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: April 2010|
|Publisher: Windmill Books|
The title and central character of this book, Jasper Jones is a no-user, a trouble-maker and has, for some reason in his hour of need, sought help from an unlikely source. Charlie Bucktin. Charlie is a rather bookish, quiet, unassuming teenager. And although both boys live in the town of Corrigan, until now, they haven't spoken a word to each other. They live in different worlds. Until now, that is.
But now, their lives are going to change beyond all comprehension. Neither of them can return to boyish innocence. For Jasper, who's had to drag himself up, it doesn't matter a jot. He's no one to care whether he lives or dies, frankly. He could probably rot in prison and most people would say good riddance. He lives amongst harsh people with harsh things to say. However, Charlie is a different kettle of fish entirely. He comes from a 'respectable' family where his father reads books and his mother has honed her social skills beautifully. Not that she needs them in this runt of a town. Corrigan is a rather ugly (in more ways than one) mining town somewhere in Australia.
The well-known saying that 'two wrongs don't make a right' has real resonance in this novel. That's exactly what Jasper and Charlie do and then give themselves bellyfuls of deep guilt thereafter. Silvey piles on the tension and suspense page after page, relentlessly. And it makes for page-turning reading. As more of the town's inhabitants become embroiled, the boys' stories and their lies, get deeper and bigger, almost by the day, sometimes by the hour. The boys are digging one massive hole for themselves.
This dreadful event which entwines Jasper and Charlie throws up some nasty thinking in the town's residents. Racism rears up its ugly head regularly. In fact, it's so ingrained in the town's psyche that, worryingly, the residents don't appear to notice. For example, Charlie's best friend is a clever and witty boy called Jeffrey. He's a natural at cricket. You'd think he'd be welcomed with open arms, wouldn't you? But he's an outsider. He's not one of them. He's from Vietnam. The local boys call him 'Cong' and don't even give it a second thought. The novel is set in the mid 1960s, so feelings surrounding the Vietnam War are deep. Jeffrey witnesses first-hand his family's ostracism. He deals with it in his own quiet way. But Charlie is often ready to explode at the unfairness of it all.
As the story progresses, these entrenched views by the majority of the town, are seen to be groundless, there is no evidence whatsoever. But fingers still point and tongues still wag. This in-built nastiness is a central element in this novel. It's like a cancer. As a result, it leads certain individuals to drastic action which cannot be overturned.
Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of sadness in this novel as secrets reveal themselves. But conversely, there's a welcome break - in the breezy, witty chat between the two best friends, Charlie and Jeffrey. And there's plenty of it. They cover all manner of diverse subjects on a regular basis. It's almost like a form of therapy for both boys. The more serious the issues in their daily lives, the more ridiculous their boyish banter eg: they wonder why Kamikaze pilots wear helmets. And Jeffrey always refers to Jesus as Cheeses Christ.
To be honest, Charlie's life is hell and so it Jasper's - but for varying reasons. Charlie has to be 'normal' on a daily basis for his parents. It's very wearing. He tries to keep it together but this secret with Jasper is tearing him apart. He's about to explode into a million pieces. He constantly wants to confide with a grown-up then changes his mind immediately. He's in constant turmoil. And the reader can feel it. An engrossing novel.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might like to try Fall by Colin McAdam.
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