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Publishers Weekly (starred review): "Kocan indulges in neither sentimentality nor rage, and his unnamed protagonist's story is a fine achievement."

Date: Mar 13 2007

Australian writer Kocan, who spent 10 years imprisoned for attempted murder, unflinchingly renders the isolation, grief and longing of a troubled outsider in this dire, semiautobiographical novel. Having fled a violent home with his mother and younger brother, an unnamed 14-year-old soon finds himself on his own. He drifts between Sydney and brief jobs in the bush, often lost in the expanses of his mind. He pours his heart into the objects of his imagination, including Grace Kelly, whom he calls "Sweetheart," and Diestl, who is probably Marlon Brando's character from The Young Lions (Brando plays a young Nazi officer who wanders alone through the French countryside after Germany's WWII defeat). "The youth" identifies painfully with Diestl. And whether abusive, careless or sympathetic, the various adults that pass in and out of the youth's life fail to draw him into any community: his sense of the world as lacking promise becomes increasingly justified. Nevertheless, Kocan indulges in neither sentimentality nor rage, and his unnamed protagonist's story is a fine achievement. As the young man descends into madness, "the Diestl mood" becomes more and more pronounced; by the end Diestl seems to speak to the youth. Here and throughout, Kocan writes clearly and beautifully.

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