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por Craig Silvey
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Although “Jasper Jones” easily reaches its position among the Top 10 of my all-time-favourite books, I have delayed writing this review for such a long time that there’s no way for me to find a new alibi once again. Craig Silvey has earned each praise he could possibly receive, for he has managed to take his reader on a journey as complex and thrilling as only a few authors are usually able to. At least in my case.
The novel focuses on different, yet convincingly established subjects like discrimination and racism, social marginalization and unlikely friendships, all of them woven into the context of a ruthlessly conducted murder. Supported by the excellent description of a small town setting in the Australian Outback of the mid-60s, all those aspects are depicted with an unexpected realism, helping the reader to delve deeper into the story. From a general point of view, the plotlines are cheerless and bleak, yet Craig Silvey manages to make the reader feel comfortable with the setting he created, the realistic characters he introduced and the story he so perfectly outlined.
Of course, even the best book has some flaws, some things to be missed. For example, there was a LOT of cricket in this book. And if I say a lot, I mean a good deal more than that. The author even included a five-pages-long cricket glossary at the end of the book due to several terms anyone not or only slightly interested in cricket would not have understood otherwise. It was distracting to have to look up all those terms every time they were mentioned, and they were mentioned quite often. But don’t think this is a book about cricket. The sport aspects are very interestingly included into the story, bringing several characters together on one huge occasion and creating momentous conflicts with essential consequences.
The book had many things to enjoy. There was Jeffrey Lu, a Vietnamese immigrant and the protagonist’s best friend, there were some thrilling trips into the Australian outback, a creepy description of the protagonists finding a dead body, the realistic portrayal of severe and struggling parents, and a matching ending. I have to admit, it’s probably a book which is not going to be liked by everyone. You might love it, or you might hate it, but it’s so worth the read, though.
The coolest thing about it all: I actually caught myself complaining about the hot temperatures, reading of how Chuck and all the other characters had to sweat. In January. Yes. I complained about hot temperatures in January, because of a story set during a summer in Australia. Now say something about the atmosphere not being well-established.
Finally, I’ll include two quotes which might (or might not) make you realize how well the author was able to find words for what he wanted to describe, and will end this review with a huge recommendation for everyone who’s interested in a lovely book dealing with important subjects and interesting, breathing characters.
“I don't understand a thing about this world: about people, and why they do the things they do. The more I find out, the more I uncover, the more I know, the less I understand.”
“There’s no such thing as God, Charlie, at least not how they say. Just like there’s no such thing as Zeus or Apollo or bloody unicorns. You’re on your own. And that can make you feel either lonely or powerful. When you’re born, you wither luck out or you don’t. It’s a lottery. Tough shit or good on yer. But from there, it’s all up to you… soon as you can walk and talk, you start makin your own luck. And I don’t need some spirit in the sky to help me do that. I can do it on me own. But see, that’s what I reckon God really is, Charlie. It’s that part inside me that’s stronger and harder than anything else. And I reckon prayer is just trusting in it, having faith in it, just asking meself to be tough. And that’s all you can do. I don’t need a bunch of bullshit stories about towers and boats and floods or rules about sin. It’s all just a complicated way to get to that place in you, and it’s not honest either. I don’t need to trick meself into thinking anyone else is listenin’, or even cares. Because it doesn’t matter. I matter. And I know I’ll be alright. Because I got a good heart, and fuck this town for making me try and believe otherwise. It’s what you come with and what you leave with. And that’s all I got.”
Oh, I have to reread this sooner than soon.
“Jasper Jones is the example of where poor aptitude and attitude will lead,” according to the parents in Corrigan, Australia. But Charlie Bucktin is still flattered when Jasper knocks on his bedroom window in the dead of night to ask for his help. Then Charlie finds out what the favor is, disposing of the body of Laura Wishart found hanging at Jasper’s private swimming spot. After some persuasion from Jasper where he convinces Charlie he had nothing to do with her death and that the police would finger him for her death because of his bad reputation, Charlie helps throw her body in the dam. From here on, Charlie feels like he has a brick in his stomach and his active imagination sees the cops finding out and hauling him off to jail as an accessory. Laura’s disappearance casts a pall across the town and keeps Charlie from enjoying the summer. This beautifully written, coming of age novel deals with several issues including racism, sexual abuse, first love, fitting in, and a failing marriage. The characters are well drawn and Charlie's relationship with his best friend Jeffrey Lu produces chuckles amid the grim story. This novel was a Printz 2012 Honor book.
A few months ago, I accidentally joined a book club (long story).
The first book chosen was Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. Immediately, at least a couple of objections sprung to my mind:
1. Australian fiction and I don't have a harmonious track record.
2. Generally, literary fiction is not my jam.
3. No way could I read this 3 months before the club meeting and have any hope of remembering it, especially since I totally planned on skimming it (see 1 & 2, above).
So, I procrastinated. I procrastinated BIG. TIME. I didn't buy the book until Wednesday, and as I was in the midst of finishing up my Dewey bonus rolls, I refused to start this one until they were all done. (I was also hoping I could use this for a monopoly space - kid on cover, woot!)
Which means I started it last night at 10pm. Bookclub met today at 2. Now, this wasn't going to be a problem, because I was totally going to skim read it. Then I read the first page. Boy did that first page suck me in. So did the second, and the third, and the fourth and OMG IT'S 2AM!!!
I woke up at 8 and plowed through the entire thing by 1pm (taking a "break", and I use that term loosely, to ferry all three cats to the vet for annual appointments - something I cannot recommend).
It was good. Seriously, it was really damn good. The Australian fiction I've been subjected to so far have all had one thing in common: a thread of cruelty that wove subtlety or not so subtley through the narrative. Jasper Jones is not an exception, which is why I'd hesitate to call it a YA read. There are some very confronting scenes and descriptions of abuse, violence, and racial hate crimes. It might be a good fit for some, but not all, teens.
This common thread is what turns me off trying new Aussie fiction, but here it's offset by the humour and genuine innocence of Charlie, and his banter with his best friend, Jeffry Lu, who often steals the scenes from Charlie by dint of his sheer equanimity. Some of the banter gets tedious, but only because it's exactly the tedious banter of just about any two 13-year-old boys.
There's a mystery plot beneath all the other issues facing Charlie and it was tragic; its final solution even more so. There's not a lot of winning for the good guys here, but the story does end on a note of hope, if not complete happiness.
Most of all, the writing was just incredibly engaging, with a minimum of Aussie slang and/or vernacular. If you can find this one, read the first couple of pages - you might be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
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Wikipedia en inglés (2)
Charles Butkin es un niño de trece años, un apasionado lector y uno de los chicos menos populares del pequeño pueblo australiano en el que vive. Una calurosa noche del verano de 1965 alguien llama a su ventana: es Jasper Jones, un mestizo rebelde y marginado que necesita ayuda. Charlie acompañará a Jasper hasta un claro del bosque, donde será cómplice de su horrible descubrimiento, un secreto que cambiará sus vidas para siempre. Jasper Jones es una novela de aventuras y aprendizaje cuyas páginas esconden la magia de los grandes clásicos. Craig Silvey revela en esta historia el extraordinario poder de la amistad como familia alternativa, su valor frente a la injusticia y la hipocresía, y nos presenta a unos personajes de los que resulta imposible separarse.
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Sistema Decimal Melvil (DDC)823.92Literature English & Old English literatures English fiction Modern Period 2000-
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Conviértete en un Autor de LibraryThing.
I am also surprised that until last week I had not heard either of the book (2009) nor the movie (2017), and yet there are 80 reviews and over 1200 members on Librarything alone. It has been a big miss on my part.
It has been described as 'an Australian To Kill a Mockingbird', though as another reviewer said, such is a big call given the latter's reputation. I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of Mockingbird (the book), being a bigger fan of the movie. There are various explicit references to Mockingbird (more than one reference to 'what would Atticus think in these circumstances') and implicit references (in that both books reference racial, social and class issues, as well mystery as to death/murder?, and small town social and political issues).
But given Jasper Jones is set in 1965-66 (Mockingbird was published in 1960 and was an instant success; the movie came out in 1962...I don't know when it got to Australia), and with Charlie, the narrator described as a 'bookish boy of thirteen' and son of a literature teacher, one could expect that Charlie could see the connections to Mockingbird, I think the passing Mockingbird references work (or at least I am willing to be convinced that there was that possibility!).
The book moves quickly, in part due to the mystery, not just the death at the center of the book, but the unlikely blossoming friendship of Jasper Jones (from the wrong side of the tracks) and Ned; and separately between Ned and the Vietnamese Jeffery Lu; and then Ned and Eliza, one of the girls in his school.
But there are also the simmering racial troubles, not just First Nations, but also recent migrants (even if they had lived in Australia for years). And class issues: Ned's mother 'came from money' and the underlying vibe was that she regretted her marriage.
At nearly 400 pages, the book could have been shorter if it dropped the whole Jeffery Lu character (Ned's best friend). One reviewer complains of the description of cricket that Jeffery adores! But I think it would be a poorer book if it had been dropped. It adds much humour to what could otherwise been a somewhat 'heavy' text. And the banter between Ned and Jeffery, not all humourous, adds much to the depiction of the thoughts (not constrained to cricket) of some 13-14 old characters, which added much to the background to Ned's ( and other characters') thinking as to what it was like to live that time and place.
The denouement worked very well. I did not see it coming, but it made sense.
Was everything 'resolved'? Certainly not, but it rang true.
Jasper Jones has been described by some as Young Adult, whilst others have questioned that. Whilst there is little if any graphic languages or scenes, given we are talking about characters of 13-17(?), such may give the wrong guide as to who this book is directed to, with a number of topics challenging/triggering for some younger readers.
I would not describe this as a typical who-dun-it or mystery text, though I love/read many such books and will continue to do so. But like Mockingbird, whist the murder/mystery is a significant piece of the text, the text is much more about personal interactions and surrounding social and other factors which underpin it. It that comment suddenly dampens what would other enthusiasm you may have read into the review, ignore the previous sentence!
1 November 2022 ( )