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Book Review: Jasper Jones

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by Anita James

jasper-jones-bcThis month’s book club meeting was by high and away very special: we met at Victoria’s borrowed luxury pad on the fifteenth floor of Westpoint , from where little provincial Tilburg took on a surprisingly cosmopolitan air. From down under, Melissa joined us all the way from Australia via Skype, helping us to decode* the book of the evening Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey.jasper-jones-bc-2

The story takes place in rural Australia and is foreign in scenery and language, but it tells of an experience all go through everywhere trying to reach adulthood: our place in the scheme of things, the demands of friendship, handling the crash of parents falling off their pedestals and navigating a first love. The confusion of being on the cusp is complicated here by racism, bigotry, injustice, adultery, the rumblings of a distant war and the mysterious death of a young woman.

jasper-jones

The young hero, Charlie, “born without speed or courage,” is flung into a scary adventure by Jasper Jones, a scarcely older boy of mixed parentage who seeks his help in the dead of the night. If it all sounds gothic it’s because it is – in the background are the voices of Faulkner and Mark Twain. The adventure stumbles through a thicket of entanglements which are in turn funny and moving until the mysteries are all resolved and justice is reclaimed.

* I was intrigued by the term ‘sleepout’, in Charlie’s room. In Australia, this is described as a granny flat attached to, but separate of, the main living quarters.

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