by Anita James
This month’s book club meeting was by high and away very special: we met at Victoria’s borrowed luxury pad on the fifteenth floor of Westpoint , from where little provincial Tilburg took on a surprisingly cosmopolitan air. From down under, Melissa joined us all the way from Australia via Skype, helping us to decode* the book of the evening Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey.
The story takes place in rural Australia and is foreign in scenery and language, but it tells of an experience all go through everywhere trying to reach adulthood: our place in the scheme of things, the demands of friendship, handling the crash of parents falling off their pedestals and navigating a first love. The confusion of being on the cusp is complicated here by racism, bigotry, injustice, adultery, the rumblings of a distant war and the mysterious death of a young woman.
The young hero, Charlie, “born without speed or courage,” is flung into a scary adventure by Jasper Jones, a scarcely older boy of mixed parentage who seeks his help in the dead of the night. If it all sounds gothic it’s because it is – in the background are the voices of Faulkner and Mark Twain. The adventure stumbles through a thicket of entanglements which are in turn funny and moving until the mysteries are all resolved and justice is reclaimed.
* I was intrigued by the term ‘sleepout’, in Charlie’s room. In Australia, this is described as a granny flat attached to, but separate of, the main living quarters.