Review: Through the Cracks

9781921901546I make no secret of being a big fan of Australian writer Honey Brown’s work and her new novel, Through the Cracks, may well be her best.

The novel’s opening jolts the reader like a slap in the face, occurring at the moment when fourteen-year-old Adam Vander has grown strong enough to defend himself against an abusive father, Joe. The stand-off between Adam and Joe is depicted in terrifying, visceral detail, making the first sixty pages so tense that like me, you might not want to read them at night.

Adam emerges, though not unscathed, from the suburban house in which he has been kept as a prisoner, to a world he doesn’t know, unable to read or fend for himself. He is taken under the wing of the streetwise Billy Benson, whose motives for helping Adam become increasingly muddied as the story progresses.

Brown has taken many risks with this book yet they all seem to pay off. She writes from the perspective of the two young men, Adam and Billy, effectively starting the story in the middle, slowly revealing the full extent of the trauma that the boys have survived, building tension as the past catches up to the present. She deals with the incendiary topic of child abuse with sensitivity and without being gratuitous, at the same time leaving us in no doubt as to the horrific nature of what the boys have experienced.

The characterisations are remarkable. The boys’ voices are so strong, they leap from the page, staying inside your head for days. Their reactions to the world around them and their interactions with each other likewise have power and authenticity, filled with moments of love and pain:

[Billy] held out his hand to be shaken.
Adam would have preferred that they hugged. Such was the pull to do it, Adam had to plant his feet, tense his tummy, lock his spine, all to stop from reaching out, holding on, clinging tight.

It was my pleasure to attend the launch, where Brown talked about the process of writing Through the Cracks. She admitted to being a minimalist when it comes to research, believing in the power of empathy and imagination to fill in the cracks, so to speak. “Everyone has different experiences that push them into dark places,” she said. “But the emotions in those places are similar.” She admits to being proud of this book, for having written something “passionate but not preachy.”

She’s got a lot to be proud of.

A word of advice: if you have the book as a new release paperback, do not read the backcover blurb as it contains details that some readers will consider spoilers. (The online blurb has been edited to remove spoilers).

Through the Cracks by Honey Brown (2014) is published by Penguin.

This review has been submitted as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Listen to my review of Through the Cracks on Radio National Books and Arts Daily here.

 

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About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne-based crime writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. Her first novel, Behind the Night Bazaar won the 2004 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. She is a winner of the Scarlet Stiletto Award and has thrice been shortlisted for Ned Kelly awards. Her third novel, The Dying Beach, was also shortlisted for the 2014 Davitt Award. Angela teaches writing and is currently studying for her PhD in Creative Writing at Monash University.
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11 Responses to Review: Through the Cracks

  1. Felicity says:

    Sounds terrific, must put it on the TBR list.

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  2. Angela – Oh, I so wish blurbs wouldn’t contain spoilers. On to the book…it does sound fantastic. This is now the third or fourth post I’ve read urging me to read this. I think it’s a Sign…

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  3. Despite her being recommended to me many times I hadn’t read any of Honey Brown’s books until this one a few weeks ago and I was blown away (despite feeling a bit cheated by the spoiler-ish nature of the blurb). I like the way it somehow manages not to be unrelentingly grim even though its subject matter is horrendous. I’m looking forward to making my way through Honey Brown’s earlier books now.

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    • angelasavage says:

      “I like the way it somehow manages not to be unrelentingly grim even though its subject matter is horrendous.” – Well put, Bernadette.

      You are in for a treat, working your way through Honey Brown’s backlist. I’ll be interested to know which one(s) you like best. I still find it impossible to choose a favourite – although After The Darkness succeeded in scaring the hell out of me and very few books do.

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  4. Pingback: Through the Cracks by Honey Brown – don’t read the back cover | Devoted Eclectic

  5. Pingback: Top 10 Crime Reads 2014 | Angela Savage

  6. Pingback: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 wrap-up | Angela Savage

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