With their father, there's always a catch . . . Colt Jenson and his younger brother Bastian have moved to a new, working-class suburb. The Jensons are different. Their father, Rex, showers them with gifts - toys, bikes, all that glitters most - and makes them the envy of the neighbourhood.To Freya Kiley and the other local kids, the Jensons are a family from a magazine, and Rex a hero - successful, attentive, attractive, always there to lend a hand. But to Colt he's an impossible figure in a different way: unbearable, suffocating. Has Colt got Rex wrong, or has he seen something in his father that will destroy their fragile new lives?Sonya Hartnett's new novel for adults is an unflinching and utterly compelling work from one Australia's finest writers. 'Golden Boys has a line-by line brilliance that is startling ... [Hartnett] is one of Austtralia's most penetrating analysts of the travail and turmoil of families, especially as witnessed and suffered by the young.' Weekend Australian 'Sonya Hartnett is that rarest and most precious of writers: a reverse Peter Pan.' Saturday Paper 'A web in which it is a pleasure to become entangled.' Saturday Paper 'Succinct and vivid.' The Age 'A fine portrait of the charming predator.' West Australian 'An absorbing, fiercely elegant and tangibly believable novel that raises questions about our responsibility to bear witness - and details thecomplex obstacles to doing so.' Australian Book Review
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Saturday, October 25, 2014
Evil lurks under the surface.
A book that slowly draws you into its grasp into a time of childhood innocence, of BMX bikes and playing in the local storm water drain, of BBQ’s with the neighbours… a time when kids could be adventurers and start to develop their own identity and work out their place in the world. However all is not quite what it seems, the story told through the eyes of the children in the two families that are spotlighted in this narrative are wise for their age but have not yet learnt how to deal with their wisdom. We watch them struggle to cope with realisations that their family is not quite like everyone else’s and that feelings of love and hate are not mutually exclusive within the family unit.
The story opens with a display of parental teasing and Colt clearly sees the action for what it really is – a display of power over, her reflects; “There’s always some small cruelty, an unpleasant little hoop to be crawled through before what’s good may begin; here is the gift, but first you must guess its colour.” And so even at this early point in the novel Hartnett foreshadows the power plays that will form the crux of this story, power over and manipulation form the structure this narrative is welded to.
This is a finely drawn picture of life in the 70’s in Australian suburbia that does not skimp on domestic detail and family dysfunction. Issues that are “family secrets” are explored and laid bare. I think one of the reasons I felt drawn to this story aside from the poignant characterisations was the ability this narrative had to take me back to my own childhood, I too was a teenager in the 70’s and found life not always that easy. I could empathise with the main characters. I could relate to these times.
This is a disquieting read. The conclusion is confronting.