Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fiction Review: Gone Fishing

For bargeman Sam Scully, life in Cook’s Basin is nothing short of paradise. A wonderland of golden sand and turquoise waters, battered old tinnies and wonky pontoons, it’s a realm unspoilt by the modern world. Then a notice goes up in the Square that screams ‘EXCLUSIVE DEVELOPMENT! ’Paradise is about to be ripped apart. With plans underway to build a flash resort in the heart of their community, the residents leap into action - with Sam as their leader, and a twelve-foot papier-mache cockatoo as their mascot . . . but it’s never going to be easy to turn the tide of ‘progress

Gone Fishing

Duncan, S. (2013). [Genre: Contemporary Fiction]

Goodreads|Book Depository

Thanks to Bantam Australia for providing an advance reader copy of this title. All opinions are my own.

The Briny Cafe seemed to strike a chord with borrowers in one of the small rural libraries that I work in. For months it had a reserve list of at least three people and even now never spends more than a few hours on the shelf. It was a little bit of a weird phenomenon, given that in the other two libraries I spend my time in it didn't get any more notice than you'd usually expect for a new title onto the shelves from a relatively unknown author. So when I noticed its sequel, Gone Fishing, on Netgalley I thought it would be worth picking up to see what all the fuss was about. At the very least it would mean I could pass it on to our patrons with the knowledge of a fellow reader.

I have to admit, at first I hated Gone Fishing with a passion. The third person present tense just irritated me beyond belief, making it hard to really get to know the characters. Even Sam, the bargeman with a heart of molten gold was hard to find any sympathy for when his actions were described with mind-numbing repetitiveness. I was just slogging through for the sake of good reader's advisory really.

And then something happened about half way through. I got drawn into the story, which really wasn't what I expected. What I was expecting was a meaningless, barely there plot story of the good life away from the city, with maybe a little romance and drama thrown in. What I got was a hard-boiled tale of a community's fight against developers. Full of corrupt politicians, crazy cults and big men with dark suits and equally dark glasses. And it's just done so well. Despite all the larger than life goings on, Duncan never strays into the realms of the unbelievable. The story is grounded in characters we recognise, that we know. Our neighbours, our friends, our relatives. The cafe owner starting to hit menopause, the 18-year-old who can barely see past his desire for a car. Gone Fishing might be feel good, but it has grit. It's a guidebook to community activism hiding behind a fair-dinkum Australian yarn. By the time I hit 100%, my qualms about the tense had been overblown by marvelling at the sheer complexity of the thing.

I suspect that the tone of Gone Fishing differs somewhat from that of The Briny Cafe, which from all accounts was a fairly light read. I'm looking forward to seeing if it causes the same stir as its predecessor in my rural New Zealand library. Even if it doesn't, I'll be extremely pleased that I read it. It's well worth picking up as a standalone. Just don't expect a light Sunday afternoon read.

4/5 stars.

Gone Fishing is released October 1st.

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