1988, by Andrew McGahan

It seemed fitting. We’d drive, we’d traverse the continent. Not that we could go all the way by car. Wayne didn’t know exactly where the lighthouse was, but he did know that it was somewhere remote, not accessible by road. The only way in was by plane or boat. And it seemed that once we’d arrived, we’d be stuck there until the six months were up. There was no transport for holidays or weekends off. Only, maybe, for emergencies. Critical injuries, heart attacks, death.

It is 1988, the year Australia celebrates the Bicentenary of European settlement and Brisbane hosts the Expo. But Gordon, failed writer and part time bottleshop attendant, is heading out of Brisbane to spend most of the year manning a weather station thousands of miles from home, and isolated from the rest of the world. His partner in this journey is Wayne, a mere acquaintance and artist. The two hope that their isolation will help with their respective crafts.

But, while the pair expect their job to be challenging, the challenges they face are not necessarily those they expected, and Gordon finds himself living in a blur of alcohol and marijuana , counting down the days till his departure.

1988 is a prequel to author McGahan’s first novel, Praise, both re-released this year along with his other novels to date. Whilst not the recipient of the same awards and kudos that some of his other novels have earned (McGahan has won the Miles Franklin, a Ned Kelly and the Vogel award), 1988 is another example of both his masterful writing and his versatility. Gordon is a flawed character, yet the reader is taken on an intimate journey through his messed-up life and finds some level of understanding.

A satisfying read.

1988, by Andrew McGahan
Allen & Unwin 1995, this edition 2005