Tuesday, June 5, 2012



To the Highlands (Jon Doust, Fremantle Press, $29.99 tpb, ISBN 9781921888779, August)

What is a man and how does a boy become one? Jack
Muir was searching for the answers to these questions
in Boy on a Wire, the first book in Jon Doust’s semiautobiographical
coming-of-age trilogy, set in an
exclusive boys’ boarding school in 1960s Perth, which was
longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. Readers return
to Jack’s story in To the Highlands. It’s 1968—a year of
global revolution. Jack still has his sense of humour, he’s
finished school and he’s off to work in ‘the islands’ for
the Colonial Bank of Australia. Obsessed with losing
his virginity, desperate for love but only just discovering
lust, and consumed by inexplicable rage and a desire for
revenge, Jack is initiated into the expat lifestyle and it
swallows him whole. There are more big issues in this
book, including racism, misogyny, domestic violence,
alcohol abuse, the entitlements of white colonialism and
the emerging political independence of an island nation.
Named after Randolph Stow’s 1958 Miles Franklin
winner To the Islands, this is a compelling, unsettling
and confronting sequel to Boy on a Wire. There is a
relentless rawness to this book that makes its moments
of tenderness hit their mark even more keenly.
Paula Grunseit is a freelance journalist, editor
and reviewer

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