Hailed as an Australian ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ this story intrigued me from the start. It came highly recommended from my book club group and as I was the only one who hadn’t read it, I tucked it away in my reading bag. The book lay for some time in the bag, then it progressed to the soon to be read pile on my bed side table, which has actually spilled over to multiple piles on my bedside area. My husband keeps warning that I am a fire hazard! Finally, I had caught up on sleep enough so I could keep my eyes open long enough at night to actually read. Yippee!!
The photo I have included in this blog post is the cover of the book I had. I love the cover of this book, the face of the boy – his expression is a mix of hope, hurt, hardness and innocence. The young man on the front cover is almost exactly as I pictured young Jasper throughout the story. I found that the characters in this story were well written and certainly had a ‘Mockingbird-escque’ feel – placed in 1960s in rural Australia it conjured that small rural town with secret characters and relationships. Having grown up as a young child in the 1970s I almost feel that I have a tangible connection to this time.
This story tell us about a young boy Charlie who is an only child, his best mate is the child of Vietnamese migrants who is a brilliant cricketer and a gorgeous character, his Dad is loving but has mysteries of his own and his mother is a woman full of regret and bitterness. He becomes embroiled in a dangerous and complicated situation when young Jasper Jones calls on him for help after the death of a young local girl. Jasper’s mother is dead and his father has lost all purpose and direction in life, numbing himself from the outside world and his son through alcohol. Jasper is seen by the local community as a trouble maker and is quickly blamed for all manner of misdemeanours.
The story really has a richness that belies it’s length, the depths of the individual character stories are quite complex and I think Silvey has really skillfully created the circumstances, events and stories within stories, without being too graphic and obvious about what is a confronting issue.
I very much enjoyed this book and would readily recommend it. It has a very endearing quality to it, largely due to the rich characterisation, of which you will no doubt recognise many of them from people who have passed by your lives. I laughed out loud on several occasions at the funny dialogue.
Update: Jasper Jones the movie has been released in 2017 and I will review this as a comparison to the book series.