19 June 2012

Review: Killing Richard Dawson by Robin Baker

Killing Richard Dawson by Robin Baker book cover
* From publisher for review *

Killing Richard Dawson is narrated by a uni student with a tragic back story now living alone with his Gran.  He's visited once a fortnight by a young social worker who checks on his Gran's welfare as well as his own, although he's been keeping his real thoughts and emotions well hidden from her for years.

Lonely as a child until he met his best friend George, the narrator has never had much luck pursuing girls or socialising.  He makes a friend at University - calling her Fatty Mel - and soon falls into a wider group of friends who go to nightclubs, get drunk and hang out.  He is depressed, directionless and unmotivated until he meets Jade, a turning point in the book.

The friends belong to Generation Y, and whilst we've all heard countless stereotypes of Gen Y, this conversation between the narrator and his friend Beau on page 160 really stuck with me:

"Why can't we fix it? If we're all so depressed, why can't we do something to change?"

Beau shrugs. "Because we're all so fucking lazy? I mean, where do you start? Changing the world isn't easy. It's a scary thought. Most people would much rather bury their head in the sand and wait for it to fix itself."

And there you have it, although Beau's answer can apply to anyone too lazy to change.

Back to the story, and Robin Baker brings a fresh new voice to Australian writing.  In one particular beach scene it was set up so logically I believed the outcome was 100% predictable until the joke was on me, the author flipping the plot on its head.  Similarly, I had a feeling I knew what was happening with a particular character during the novel and then wham, towards the end I found myself scrambling back through the pages scouring for clues.  

When it was all over, I turned straight back to re-read Chapter One - which serves as a prologue - with an entirely new appreciation.

Killing Richard Dawson is the exploration of a young man with a sympathetic and difficult past trying to find his place in the world, depressed, confused and falling in love.  It's dark, it's surprising and it's strangely comic.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

Robin Baker speaks to me about his writing and more, click here to read the interview.

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