Monday, July 9, 2018

Me and Rory Macbeath

Me and Rory Macbeath, Richard Beasley

This excellent story is set in Adelaide in 1977, where 12-year old Jake Taylor and his barrister mum, Harry, live on Rose Avenue, somewhere along the Torrens river. His summers are spent with the friends of the street playing cricket, swimming in the local pool, wandering around the suburb at night and occasionally going fishing with friends and their dad.

Rory moves into the house at the top of the street, and quickly joins the group of neighbourhood kids. While he can’t play cricket, he can certainly stand up for himself, and while he doesn’t seem to know much about the things they are taught in school, he can fish like a pro. A strong friendship develops between the boys.

But these marvellous days can’t last forever, especially as it seems that Rory’s family have secrets they are hiding. The story quickly changes about the halfway point from the account of a boyhood life and friendship to the legal drama of a courtroom battle. It seems fair to warn readers that there are some reasonably descriptive scenes regarding domestic violence.

How the story plays out is not very surprising, and it’s relentless as it does so. Beasley has managed to write both the idyll of boyhood life and the gritty reality of the more unpleasant parts of suburban life. He is a barrister himself, which becomes increasingly obvious as the legal drama unfolds.

I enjoyed it. It rings true to the childhood many of my generation had in Australia: that carefree life, where you played with the neighbourhood kids, knew their parents and some of each family’s quirks, but raises the question: did you really know what went on in their homes? Also, I really liked reading a book set in Adelaide and trying to nut out more details from the hints in the story. That doesn’t mean it’s exclusive at all, it just gave me an extra level of interest and attention to detail.

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