The Sunken Road by Gary Disher (Australian)


I don’t want to speak badly about this book, even though I did abandon it.

I picked it up because I intended to go and see a Sydney Writers Festival event at which he was speaking (just as an aside, I was so busy at work that I actually forgot that I had rsvp’d to attend until the following day, so in the end I never made it to the event).

When I first started reading it, I was thoroughly impressed. This is not your average novel. The writing is perfect. It captured the feeling of the Australian farming countryside so well you feel as though you are there, on the land, in the heat, with the characters.

What I found most amazing about the book was the way in which it was written – not chronologically – but in topics. Like “The Beach” or “Moving House” (this was a library book which I no longer have with me so don’t hold me to the accuracy of those examples).

What then unfolds are glimpses of the life of the main character, Anna Tolley. We see her progress through each stage of her life in each of the chapters, each time gaining a new insight into her life. No doubt that by the end of these books, the glimpses we see throughout the book come together to form a full impression of the character of Anna Tolley.

This is one of the most unique books I have read in terms of its structure, and I admired Disher’s obvious talent.

Why did I abandon it? I think for two reasons.

The first was that I was beginning to find it a little bit repetitive. Not in the sense that the same material was repeated over and over again (it isn’t). Only in the sense that I felt as though I was seeing her entire development over and over again. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all – and leads me to the second, and purely personal, reason I abandoned it. At the time I commenced the book I was extremely overworked and dealing with some very difficult situations at work. A literary novel just wasn’t what I needed at the time. I needed a book that required no thought, that wasn’t challenging, but was fun and easy to read and escape into so escape my own miserable existence (ok, I’m exaggerating for effect there, but I was overworked). So I got stuck into the Northern Lights Trilogy (Phillip Pullman) instead.

Although I abandoned it, it was beautifully written and felt very unique and is definitely a book that I will revisit in the future.

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