Book Review: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
Every now and then you will read a book that grabs at your heart and yanks at it. A book which leaves you winded and sucking in the words on the page like oxygen. Jasper Jones is unsettling and brilliant.
Craig Silvey’s second novel Jasper Jones is not a children’s book. If you, like me, are fooled by the friendly orange colourful cover and are expecting a good ol’ “O-stralian” coming of age novel in the same vein of Morris Gleiztman you may feel like someone has chucked a brick at you when the shock sets in.
The story is told from the first person narrative of Charlie Bucktin, a thirteen year old intellectual and loner who’s life in the small mining town of Corrigan in 1965 has been pretty uneventful. The world of playing cricket with his hilarious friend Jeffery Lu and reading books is turned on it’s head when Jasper Jones, a rebel and outcast of the town knocks at his window asking for help. It is around this time that the concussion-effect sets in.
This is not a coming of age novel in the sense of the discovery of pubic hair, or that first bumbling kiss. If anything it is a coming of death, or of tragedy that hopefully you won’t ever have to experience. Charlie’s innocence is stripped off him like a coat and in it’s place he cloaked in confusion and anxiety. But there is a story to be told, a mystery and it hides within what Charlie thought was boring and dull, the town of Corrigan.
Yet the strength in this book lies Silvey’s conceptualisation of the lighter aspects of life, there is joy to be found in the character’s themselves. One minute you’re close to tears, the next laughing hysterically. Life goes on. Charlie falls hopelessly and romantically in love with Eliza and continues to have comical conversations with Jeffery Lu:
“You’re a very strange little man.”
“Incorrect. I’m practically a visionary. I’ve got so many feathers in my cap I’m practically an Indian chief. Why don’t you go home and rub a photograph of Eliza all over your body like a bar of soap?”
“Honestly, you’re starting to genuinely unsettle me. Have you thought about electrotherapy?”
And all the while Jasper Jones continues to knock on Charlie’s window. Silvey writes with an incredible amount of depth, although Jasper does not visit Charlie often he is still a lingering ghost, not far from Charlie’s mind. Jasper is a character of courage and strength, he has raised himself and is treated horribly by the town folk. He is half- aboriginal, yet his bravery is infectious on Charlie and influences his perspective on the town and the people in it.
Jasper Jones is a novel bursting with bold issues: racism, bullying, murder, suicide, abuse.. Just to name a few, but it’s not the Bold and Beautiful. It is raw and feels incredibly real.. Just like how good fiction should feel.