He was my favourite uncle when I was a little girl. He always had motorbikes, and I’d sit on the tank in front of him, and he’d drive me around the back streets of Toowoomba, where we were all living at the time. I mean, he seemed lovely to me back then, but my parents used to talk about how much he’d changed after he came back from Vietnam War…I don’t know if it’s that exactly that makes him the way he is – I don’t remember what he was like before he went off to fight – but I do know that he can be a bit hard to get along with sometimes…’
Harry has never met his great uncle Frank, and he’s less than impressed about having to go to Frank’s wedding. He won’t know anyone there and going to the wedding means missing out on his best mate’s birthday party. All he knows about Frank is that he’s a Vietnam vet, so Harry decides he’d better brush up on his war history so that he doesn’t put his foot in it when the subject comes up. But at Frank’s house, Harry finds his knowledge might not be enough to deal with Frank. In the meantime, Harry and his parents have problems of their own to deal with.
Hunting Elephants is a brave novel, exploring the differences between appearance and reality, and the dangers of making assumptions about people and situations. Frank has secrets and insecurities, but so does Harry and, it turns out, several of the other characters in the novel.
This is a challenging tale, with complex issues and twists which ask readers to question their own propensity to make wrong assumptions. It is, however, a superbly satisfying book.
Hunting Elephants, by James Roy
Woolshed Press, 2008
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