Wonderful New Australian Fiction

Front cover of Lament by Nicole Kelly.

by Peter Long, Brisbane (a reader).

Last night I dreamt I had been shot in the shoulder by Ned Kelly. When I woke it took me ages to settle and not feel aggrieved; to realise my shoulder, and neck, had seized-up as a consequence of reading most of Nicole Kelly’s captivating novel, Lament, in a single session during the night.

Yes, Kelly has the gift of the gab, just like her hero and namesake Ned, and an uncanny ability to take the reader into a story both familiar and strange, and to hold you to ransom in such a manner as to make you feel compelled to join the gang.

“When Ned galloped along the railway line at Glenrowan, I was there beside him”…

I was totally absorbed and, when Ned galloped along the railway line at Glenrowan, I was there beside him and at a certain point, was mentally warning him to turn back; avoid danger, because I know the story very well, or at least thought I did. Then the author shook the fabric and another vision appeared and took me with it, until later, when the broad expanse of the sea appeared before our hero, she shook it again, in the subtlest most imaginative way, to take me, on yet another mesmerizing journey.

Lament is a clever, suspenseful, piece of historical drama. It is even cleverer because the bones of the story are known so well and it takes considerable discipline and mastery of description, to pace the tale to keep the reader informed, yet enthralled.

Moments in time…

Most readers may not find the next comment so relevant, unless, like me, they have a notorious bushranger in their ancestry, but Nicole handled contentious material in this story with considerable sensitivity. Lost in Melbourne late afternoon on November 11, on the anniversary of Ned’s death, I accidently stumbled across Melbourne’s old Gaol, and was allowed a quick tour just on closing. I was the only visitor present, except for a Kelly family member, standing at the gallows with flowers for Ned. The pathos of the moment brought me to tears and I was reminded of the responsibility writers carry in the serious business of myth making.

The author has done the story credit and reminded us that these were mere boys, with dreams, wit, passion and loyalties, with one speed on their accelerator – full ahead. They aren’t wondering souls; they belong to someone – perhaps to all of us.

Nicole has helped us understand them more fully, while introducing us to a new writer and wonderful Australian fiction.

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Where can I buy Lament? At all good bookstores, and here at www.hawkeyebooks.com.au. You should also be able to borrow it from your library…

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