Review: Diamond Dove by Adrian Hyland (Australian)

Adrian Hyland's Diamond Dove came to me as a highly recommended book from some other bloggers. I also listened to a fascinating interview with Adrian Hyland on the ABC Radio National Book Show, where Hyland was interviewed about the sequel to Diamond Dove, Gunshot Road, and also spoke about his 10 year experience living and working with remote Aboriginal communities in northern Australia (click here to listen to the interview).

The books protagonist, Emily Tempest, was born to a white father and Aboriginal mother. Although she identifies as Aboriginal, she has always moved freely between the communities and has never been quite sure of where she belongs.

The book begins with her return to Moonlight Downs, the property on which she grew up and which the Aboriginal tribe to which she belongs has been awarded Native Title land rights over. Her return, however, is not smooth and she soon finds herself embroiled in an investigation when one of the elders, also her old friend, is found murdered and a mentally unstable Aboriginal man named Blakie is blamed for the murder. Initially, Emily sets out to help the police capture Blakie who disappears after the murder. Instead what she uncovers are a series of strange events and occurrences that lead her to think that Blake may not be responsible for the murder at all. So follows the story of Emily's adventures as she tries to solve the crime, and come to terms with her own identity in the process.

The story in Diamond Dove had a lot of promise, but sadly, for me, it just wasn't realised.

Hyland certainly did a good job of drawing upon his extensive experience working with outback Aboriginal communities to Hyland has clearly used that experience to provide the reader with (what I imagine is) a very honest and accurate portrayal of what life for the both the Aboriginal and white population in isolated areas can be like. In Diamond Dove, we see the clash of traditional customs and beliefs with the attraction of larger more urban communities and what they can offer. Hyland also uses the story to explore the practical side of native title land rights and what it means for the traditional and white owners.

My complaint is that the plot itself moved too slowly and lacked a sufficient amount of tension that would have been fitting for what is essentially a work of detective fiction. Perhaps Hyland was trying to mirror the pace of life in the outback for these isolated communities, but in the end I was willing the book to pick up pace. I also found the characterisation somewhat lacking. I wanted the characters to be more fully formed and a little deeper than they were.

Although the traditions of detective fiction are observed here and the story is not unique in that sense, I did appreciate the uniqueness that the outback setting and the Aboriginal characters bought to the story.

5 / 8
Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.

Do you appreciate it when an author uses the conventions of a traditional genre, but sets their story in a more unique or unusual time or place?

Also, let me know what you thought of this book if you have read it. I would be very interested to hear your view on Hyland's depiction of this Aboriginal community.


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