Book Club – Book Review

Book Club is tonight at 8pm. For all those that haven’t been before, the format is you show up and talk about the books you’re reading with a bunch of like-minded nerds.

I  will be talking about Maurice Shadbolt’s Among the Cinders (1965).

This book was loaned to me by a friend who felt I really should have read it. As such a massive NZ Lit. fan, I’m surprised I hadn’t already discovered it. The fact I hadn’t fills me with hope for all the great NZ books I have yet to read/discover.

The story is of a young boy who goes on a hunting trip with a friend. The trip goes wrong when his friend falls down a bank and dies. This makes the narrator a bit loopy and he ends up running away to stay with his grandmother and grandfather in Auckland. When his grandmother dies, old grandad refuses to accept the truth and takes the boy out into the bush to relive his own childhood of gum-digging, cooking on a billy and sleeping rough.

What is a pretty straightforward story, ends up addressing a whole lot of bigger issues that are as relevant today as they were when the book was published.

I was surprised by how fresh the New Zealand voice was in this book. As a huge fan of Frank Sargeson, I’m always looking for that authentic New Zealand voice that Sargeson created in his writing.

I can’t stress enough how much I loved this book. It was a riveting read, full of adventure, that kept surprising me throughout. Just when I thought I couldn’t love the book any more, the main character meets the author and they get into debates about the structure of the story and how it should be told – eat your heart out Kurt Vonnegut.

While published in 1965, if you’d published it yesterday it would still be relevant and edgy.

I loved this book and can’t recommend it highly enough. I have already loaned my copy out, so you will have to wait if you want to borrow it.

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