I have just finished Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore. This was a book my mother bought for me a few years back and, having watched the excellent tele-movie of it recently, I was spurred on to read it in place of other “next book” contenders.
It is compelling reading. What is more, it has highlighted some of the facets of good writing that work for me.
For the benefit of overseas readers, The Broken Shore is a crime novel, set in Southern Australia, along a windswept part of the Victorian coastline. The main character, Joe Cashin, is a broken man himself, both physically and emotionally.
As mentioned before, Peter Temple is a consummate writer. In addition to being a wordsmith, he is able to get me to replicate certain actions that are observed in the text. Thus I find myself, having read a character description of action, silently mimicking it to weigh its movement, as if I can test its validity. It is not so much a question of whether it is valid in the first place, it is more that Temple has so effectively painted the description with words, that I actually make any movement in the first place.
At the same time, there is a mix of language economy in marriage with carefully observed description. Thus, his itinerant work Rebb, often makes observations without using personal pronouns, particularly when referring to himself. This shorthand works brilliantly in capturing that laconic, perhaps bordering on larrikinism, that seems to be part of the Australian population, even if this might be a little stereotypical. Meanwhile, the landscape is its own character, invested with its own energy and emotion. Even the way that Temple depicts Cashin’s relationship to his two standard poodles, as they bound around the countryside, is worthy of consideration.
I don’t often give five stars for books, or even write about them in blogs, but this one is a worthy contender. The fact that it has done more to tell me about the things I value in writing, in addition to telling a good yarn, seals the deal.