The Amber Amulet, by Craig Silvey

Dear Sir/Ma’am,
Please find enclosed this AMBER AMULET. That must sound unusual to a citizen, but you will have to trust me on this count because the science is too detailed for me to outline here. All you need to know is that the AMBER AMULET will eliminate your unhappiness by counter-acting it with POSITIVE ENERGY. This should see you straight. Fear not, you are in safe hands now.
Take care,
The Masked Avenger.

The Amber Amulet

By day Liam McKenzie is an average twelve year old schoolboy. At night he patrols his neighbourhood as the Masked Avenger – a superhero with powers so potent not even he comprehends their extent. His sidekick is his dog, Richie the Power Beagle. Together they keep peace in the neighborhood. Squeaky gate? No problem for the Masked Avenger. Forgotten rubbish bins? Yep – he can fix that too. A flat tyre? He can’t fix it but he can alert the owner of the vehicle without compromising his identity. But the lady at the end of the street is a challenging case. She is, he senses, deeply sad. He will have to dig deep into his reserves of power to fix this one.

The Amber Amulet is a gem. In small format hard cover, with a delightful cover, it is a treasure just to hold and to look at. The story is short and simple, but very clever. Blending the feel of a comic book with the reality of a story about a kid who is a bit lonely himself, yet manages to tackle this with his generosity and his imagination. Internal illustrations by Sonia Martinez (who also illustrated Silvey’s picture book The World According to Warren) are a combination of collage and sketches, also reminiscent of classic comic book advertising and design.

Suitable for any age – from children through to adult – The Amber Amulet is a delight.

The Amber Amulet, by Craig Silvey
Allen & Uniwn, 2012
ISBN 9781742379982

Available in good bookstores or online.

Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey

…if it were anyone else, I would choose to step back and turn away right now. I would never bow my head and push through that wattle, and its golden orbs would never shake loose and settle in my hair like confetti. I would never grab at its rough trunk to save me from tripping. I would never part its locks of foliage. And I would never lift my head to see this neat clearing of land. I would never look past Jasper Jones to reveal his secret.
But I don’t turn back. I stay. I follow Jasper Jones.
And I see it.
And everything changes.

When he is woken in the middle of a hot summer’s night, Charlie Bucktin is excited to find that Jasper Jones needs his help. Charlie is bookish and unpopular – and Jasper Jones is the town’s rebellious outcast. What could Jasper need him for? But when Charlie follows Jasper across town and out into a clearing in the bush, he doesn’t know that his life is about to changed forever. What Jasper shows him will shake him from his childhood and, in the weeks that follow everything that Charlie thinks he has known starts to change. As he struggles with the terrible secret that he carries, the disintegration of his tight knit family, the racism directed at his friend Jeffrey and first love, Charlie seeks to find truth and peace.

Jasper Jones is a brilliant novel which manages to blend terrible, tragic events with touches of romance, plenty of humour and characters who are easy to like. Set in a (fictional) small mining town in country WA, against a backdrop of true events of the 1960s including the Vietnam War, the hanging of the ‘Nedlands Monster’, the disappearance of the Beaumont children and Doug Walters test cricket debut, the author manages to create a believable setting for his tale, and to draw the reader in to the lives of Charlie and his friends.

This is a story which draws the reader in and, when it is over, leaves them wanting more. These are hard characters to have to leave behind.

Jasper Jones: A Novel

Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey
Allen & Unwin, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Rhubarb, by Craig Silvey

Eleanor Rigby lives in darkness. She is blind and, although she lives with her mother, this woman’s emotional state means Eleanor may as well be living alone. She spends her nights lost in nightmares and her days running from them.

Ewan McGregor is similarly damaged. He is agoraphobic, although he is more afraid of other people than of being outside, making early morning dashes to the shops for his supplies. He spends his days playing his cello to himself and thinking of ways to get rid of the two possums infesting his house.

The pair come into each other’s lives unexpectedly. Ewan takes his cello out onto the front veranda for the first time ever and Eleanor, walking past, stops to listen to him play. She is drawn both to the music and to Ewan, prehaps recognising a kindred spirit. Their friendship is neither instant or orthodox. Both have hang-ups and ghosts which stop them from trusting, from voicing their feelings and from giving too much. Eventually, though, some sort of connection is made.

It is no coincidence that Silvey’s main character has the same name as the Beatles’ song and readers may well find themselves singing the song as they read the book. Rhubarb is a book about lonely people – and not just Eleanor and Ewan. ALL the characters are ‘lonely people’ – Eleanor’s mother, who spends her days and nights in front of the television; Frank, who is one of the few people Eleanor makes conversation with regularly and who lives in denial of his wife’s death; even Bruno, the pseudo-Italian (he’s really Romanian) deli-owner and his long-suffering wife Althea. Perehaps Silvey is trying to tell us that we are all lonely people?

There is no doubt that Silvey is a talented first-time novelist with a mark to make on the literary world. His story is rich and multi-layered and speaks directly to the reader. He weaves symbolism into the fabric of the tale and his characters, though tragic, seem somehow real. At times, though, the story seems to get lost behind this cleverness, with the reader left groping for the plot, wondering whether the diversion is necessary or even fruitful. In the end, however, the reader is able to overlook this and focus on the skilful rendering of the tale of the two protagonists.

A resonant read.

Rhubarb, by Craig Silvey
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2004