As I mentioned last week, I was lucky to receive a copy of Australian singer-songwriter Holly Throsby‘s first novel Goodwood from the good people at Dymocks Books. Of the 32 books I’ve read or started to read this year, I’ve read one novel. This one. I intended to read more novels, including some that have been sitting on my shelf for years, but I kept stumbling across non-fiction books that grabbed my attention and demanded to be read, allowing me to continue to collect underpants!
So finally, after more than ten months of reading, I’ve finished my first novel for the year. Hooray!
Goodwood is set in a fictional (I presume) town in NSW, not the Hobart suburb of the same name (sorry Anchor Wetsuits fans). The Goodwood of the novel is somewhere relatively near to Belanglo State Forest (which may or may not be relevant as the book progresses) in 1992. There’s no mistaking this as an Australian country town, with local landmarks including the Bowlo, the Wicko (the Wickham Hotel) and Vinnies, and characters called Big Jim, Smithy and Davo. The reference to Glenn Ridge on Sale of the Century set the scene perfectly.
The story is mostly told through the eyes of Jean Brown, aged 17, who lives with her Mum Celia. It begins with the disappearance of two of Goodwood’s residents, 18-year-old Rosie White, who vanishes overnight, and the popular butcher Bart McDonald, who never returns from a fishing trip. The two apparently unconnected disappearances happen exactly a week apart, and they take away all sense of normality from the town as the people struggle to come to terms with what has happened.
As with any small town, everyone knows everyone’s business (especially Nance the grocer) and, of course, everyone has secrets, some of which are relevant to the disappearance of Rosie and Bart.
I read this book in three days, which is pretty speedy for me. I was hooked on the story right from the start and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Ms Throsby cohesively weaves together Jean’s narrative and the parts of the story she isn’t directly involved in, and builds believable characters. Their histories and the revelations of what they know are gradually revealed to build up a picture of a small, close-knit town overcome by tragedy, where no one is untouched by what has happened.
I haven’t read many mystery novels recently (OK I haven’t read many novels recently full stop), so I don’t know if there is a typical style or format typical of this type of this genre. As an inexperienced novel-reader, I found Ms Throsby’s writing to be clear and genuine. I could identify with the characters and the story came across as plausible. I really wanted to know what had happened to Rosie and Bart, as well as being interested in how Jean’s character developed during the story.
Of course, I missed the key clue in the mystery (or at least the clue I think was key) and all the other pointers along the way, so the conclusion was totally a surprise for me. I’m really not good at mystery novels. Did I mention that? Maybe I should stick to crosswords. Haha.
In short, if you like Australian writing and mysteries, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Maybe I should investigate this genre a little further.
Thank you, Dymocks for a great prize, and congratulations Holly Throsby on a fabulous debut novel.
(ETA: I received this book as a prize from Dymocks and was under no obligation to write about it on my blog. I wanted to do this as part of my reading project for this year, as I did for several other books I’ve read – you can find my reading list here.)