First review is in:
BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER Reviews March to May
Boy on a Wire (Jon Doust, Fremantle Press, $24.95 pb, ISBN 9781921361456, April) ****
The boarding school memoir or novel is an enduring literary subgenre, from 1950s classics such as The Catcher in the Rye to Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep. Doust’s recognisably Australian contribution to the genre draws on his own experiences in a West Australian boarding school in this clever, polished, detail-rich debut novel. From the opening pages the reader is wholly transported into the head of Jack Muir, a sensitive, sharp-eyed boy from small-town WA who is constantly measured (unfavourably) against his goldenboy brother. The distinctive, masterfully inhabited adolescent narrator recalls the narrator in darkly funny coming-of-age memoir Hoi Polloi (Craig Sherborne)—as does the juxtaposition of stark naivety and carefully mined knowingness. (‘Only those who can find the mean streak in them survive.’) Jack’s heroes include Paul McCartney, Atticus Finch, Jesus, and Tom Brown. He delights in his best friend winning an ice-cream eating competition against a school bully; earns the nickname Coco’ (after the clown) on his first week at school, and makes an enemy of the headmaster with his everready wit. He fiercely adores his mother and yearns for affection from his father—a man cast in the mould of ‘real men’ like John Wayne. This is a funny and moving book by an assured new writer.
Jo Case is publications manager at Readings and
books editor of The Big Issue