Two Books, One Story

There have been tears at my desk. The apparently easy migration from to self hosted has been fraught. Every step has been a drama. I don’t know why.

As the result,  I have two Pocket Bookclub events to write about. Tim Winton’s, The Shepherd’s Hut and Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton.

Lucky for me, they are the same story.

  • A young teenage boy witnesses and is subject to unimaginable violence.
  • The young boy has an older man who is an unlikely mentor.
  • The place is a character.
  • Both are concerned with what is means to be a good man
  • Pocket Bookclub had unanswered questions…

Of course, they are also quite different books. You can see from the covers that they are different books. Light and dark.

Winton’s young teenage boy is Jaxie whose father beats him, regularly and viciously. Ill-prepared and with only what he can carry for survival, Jaxie sets out into the West Australian wilderness – the vast saltlands. He knows how to take care of himself. He can shoot game and skin it. He is a boy of the bush. But this is not a survival story.

Winton says this book is about toxic masculinity. Jaxie is both the victim of violence and the perpetrator of violence. He lacks the self awareness to understand how his behaviors terrorise others. Winton has tapped into the cycle of violence with subtly and with love and empathy for Jaxie. The books is beautiful, dark and gritty.

Dalton’s coming of age story is set in 1980’s Brisbane. More books should be set in Brisbane.  His teenage boy Eli grows up in a world of crime, violence and heroin. It ‘s sound dark right? Actually there there is a lightness to this novel. Eli’s baby sitter is based on the real life notorious criminal, the Houdini of Boggo Road.  His brother is mute, the crime lords are crazy and everything gets a bit crazy. A little bit too crazy to be believable but that was the crazy promise of the book and it can be forgiven.

Pocket Bookclub loved both these books. We can almost forgive Tim Winton for Eyrie and that non ending end. We loved to read about the city we know so well even if Dalton did (in my opinion) overdo the Brisbane references.

But to the unanswered questions. If you don’t want spoilers stop reading. I won’t mind.


Why has the priest been exiled? Conclusion. We don’t know. We won’t ever know.

Is there really a voice at the other end of the red phone? Thanks to Sue for astutely pointing out that Caitlyn digs deep. If there was really a voice she would need to know who it was.

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