I fell instantly in love with this book. There are echoes of Jasper Jones, Tim Winton’s Breath and Past The Shallows but this novel stands on it’s own two feet. It is truly something special. It is a combination of so many wonderful parts. Part coming-of-age story, part reminiscence of summers lost. It is, at it’s heart, a story about friendship and family and the bonds they form that either make us stronger or drag us down.
The story centres on Rose Avenue in the suburbs of Adelaide in the summer of 1977. A seemingly idyllic street where everybody knows each other, sometimes a bit too much. This street is the centre of Jake Taylor’s universe where he lives with his Mum, Harry, a successful barrister. Jake is 13 and about to start high school. But before that the whole of summer is ahead of him filled with swimming, cricket and fishing as well as a new neighbour and friend, Rory MacBeath. Jake’s not sure about Rory, he’s from Glasgow and can’t swim, bowl or bat but he can fish. By summer’s end their bond of friendship is rock solid. But as the MacBeath’s settle into Rose Avenue Jake begins to learn that all is not well in their household.
As Jake enters High School his world begins to change. Friendships are tested and strained as Jake’s world, and his friends’, branch out from Rose Avenue. As Jake tries to navigate this new world, with its new troubles and problems, the troubles on Rose Avenue boil over with tragic consequences and the enigmatic and irrepressible Harry is the only one who can do anything to help. But it may be too late to fix anything at all.
Harry Taylor is the soul of the book and one of those rare characters you meet in fiction that you hope and wish are really out there in the world. She’s the only constant in Jake’s life and is always ready to fight the good fight, in the courtroom or in the front yard, even when that good fight is stacked against her.
This is a book that hits every note in the emotional spectrum; I laughed, I cried, I cheered, I booed, I dared to hope, I shook my fist at the world. It is a story about growing up and how that changes us deep inside. It is also about how we learn who we are and what we’re made of, the lessons learned and ignored, and the friendships forged and broken and that we have to stand up for these things one way or another. But the way we stand up for these things is as important as what we stand up for and the courage to do that can be hard to find.