Tony Birch is a much acclaimed Australian writer, apparently. I have to say I hadn’t heard of him or his other works. I think I should feel slightly embarrassed about that because he is clearly a bloody good writer. I LOVED this book, I think everyone should read it!
The promise, isn’t a novel though, it’s a collection of short stories. I know short stories are everyone’s cup of tea. I have always enjoyed them – the well-written ones anyway – but I do really believe that even those generally not into short stories would enjoy these ones. The general theme, if there is one, is of love, loss and faith. Well that’s what I’ve read are the generally themes, they seem so broad almost any story could fit into them somewhere. But forget themes, read these because they a just very good stories. Each one is completely separate and despite the length of the stories Birch has an uncanny ability to draw out character and location and position the reader right in the middle of it all. I stood on the edge of that river with those two young boys as they searched for the missing get away car they were sure would be hidden around there. I was in that dodgy hotel room with the three would-be robbers and the baby. And I was crouching down intently watching that fateful marble championship.
There is great, sometimes dark, humour in many of the stories. There is sadness and raw emotion. And there is also a unique Australian-ness about them all. I loved, particularly, his ability to capture the adolescent mind – reminiscent of Jasper Jones. With the end of each story I wanted to read on, to see what happened to those boys by the river, or the only girl in the marble championship, but I was not left without ending as some short stories tend to do.
So if you haven’t worked out it out by now, I would highly recommend this book. And if you do read, tell me what you thought of it. Are you into short stories? What others would you recommend? Or do you hate them?