They talk of a place far away in the desert were things haven’t changed and the old life remains as it once was. As with most stories, hope rather than truth wins out with each telling, and in the end the only way to be sure of what’s real and what’s not real is to go to the source of the tale.
Albert the platypus has spent most of his life in the Adelaide Zoo but, fed up with being stared at through dirty glass day after day, he has escaped and is now traversing central Australia looking for the mystical ‘Old Australia’ where animals live the olden way, and everything is bliss. What he finds, instead, is a kind of American western-style desert, with ghost towns and dusty bars, run down mines and lawlessness. He also finds friends. First, a wombat, who helps him to come to terms with the ways of the desert, and later a raccoon, all the way from America, who is looking for adventure. And adventure is what they get.
Whilst there may be a cast made up solely of talking animals, this is anything but a children’s book. There is drinking, swearing and lots of violence, at times quite graphically described. But tehre’s also humour aplenty and even feel good moments, making it hard to categorise. Towards the end there is so much going on that it’s a little confusing, but this is all part of the cowboy-novel feel of the whole.
A weirdly intriguing read.
Albert of Adelaide, by Howard L. Anderson
Allen & Unwin, 2012
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