Pocket Bookclub talk about brunch coats and Miles Franklin winner

It says something of the age of Pocket Book club members that we all know what a brunch coat is and remember our mothers’ wearing one. Perhaps we wore one too but we were not willing to admit it. A bit like duchess for a dresser, brunch coat has fallen out of favour. I have looked for every opportunity to use the words brunch coat this week and failed. Hence, a post with brunch coat in the title. Bring back the brunch coat.

So, the real subject of this post should be A.S. Patric’s debut novel Black Rock White City which won the Miles Franklin Award in 2016. There is no more coveted award in Australian publishing and the exciting thing about the win was the publisher is not one of the big dudes (who are risk-averse and prefer to publish books by celebrities). It is published by little dudes Transit Lounge. Hopefully, this is a trend which will raise the profile and interest in books published by the small press in Australia.

Did the book excite us? Good question. We agreed the writing was at times lovely and poetic.

The street lights buzz and seem to be smouldering in the wet air. Glowing like fireflies left in a jar too long. A mist of rain falls as if there’s all the time int he world to come to a final rest on the ground. p81

The general gist of the book is Jovan and his wife Suzana, former academics, have fled Serbia. Scarred and damaged, they now live in suburban Melbourne. There is an everydayness to their day-to-day lives that mask their grief. Strange and targeted graffiti begins to appear at the hospital where Jovan cleans and the question of who is responsible is the mystery that runs through the book.

We all agreed the book was at times disjointed. I wonder if this was intentional – a reflection of the disjointedness of Jovan’s thinking and the disconnect between the couple.

I think this book asks whether it is possible to heal from violent trauma, and how to get by in a place that is not your own. Australia is a country where foreignness is a disadvantage. Suzana has a go at a dinner guest.”It’s Yo-Vahn. Not Joe-Van,” Suzana says. The guest is embarrassed and asks how he should pronounce her name. She replies, “Does it matter? I ask you because I suspect as soon as I tell you, it will slip away from your memory, with about as much importance as the dog outside…”

There is a clever and intelligent book. Yet, none of us fell in love with it. Which is not to say the book does not have a heart. I think it does.

Personally, the shortlisted Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood spoke more loudly to me and I would have been excited if it won. I have just bought Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar so I will see where I think that one would be ranked if I was a judge!

Meanwhile, jealous of the simultaneous 500 club at the other end of the house we finished our night with a game of Euchre.

Next book: The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs.

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