Author(s): David MaloufDownload
Brought back to Australia by the death of his father, Dante is sorting through his father’s belonging when he comes across a photograph of Johnno, a long-time friend. The photograph stirs up a lifetime of memories for Dante, leading him to finally set Johnno’s story–which has haunted him for years–on paper. An outrageous character of legendary proportions, Johnno is brought top life in all his complexity, beginning with his days at Brisbane Grammar School, when he and Dante first become friends, to the days they spend together in Paris, Johnno’s inexplicable rages and periodic transformations are recounted until we come to know him–without ever quite understanding him. Daring, impossible, and unpredictable, Johnno is a fascinating character. His shocking behavior awes some, annoys others, and provokes a good many more. Above all, though, he is thoroughly unforgettable.
Some Reviews: 68 in Goodreads.com
Yes, I enjoyed it, having spent many of my formative years in Brisbane. Yes, Malouf writes evocative, graphic, visual sentences – though some I found over-long. Hello, 10.5 lines on page 5 is way too long! Punctuation is a worthwhile tool.
But the point remains: Johnno was fascinating to the author, but is he to the reader? He wasted a life, did little except drink and burn churches? Does he warrant adulation? I wanted to like this book more, especially given its hype as iconic Brisbane. But I have to confess I found it disappointing.
Incredibly poignant – the author’s captures exquisite yearning, aloofness, and deep uncommunicated feelings that only amplify the story as they yawn unsaid on the page. Then, for Australian expats in particular, the love-hate relationship with ‘home’, exotic dreaming of other lives, contrasted with the dull lens with which we see our own experiences. An Australian Brideshead Revisited, with all the raw and brutal harshness of the country.
I read this at uni, while in Brisbane, a place I wasn’t from and didn’t really know. Dante talks through his experience of Johnno, naming places and streets I would then recognise and then come to know. This really heightened my connection with the book, though I was reading out of obligation, and tbh, thought Dante was a bit weak, and Johnno, kind of an insufferable dick, on completing the book, I felt I’d gotten to know the city and the characters a lot better, both were deeper than I’d given them credit for.