The Dry – A debut novel by Jane Harper
A review by Jackie Nouwens – an Australian expat
This novel is set in a small Australian town which has been suffering from a drought for more than two years. As an Australian, I can firstly understand the feeling of living through a drought as it’s something I’ve experienced myself. But more significantly, as an Australian I appreciate that this is not a stereotypical “Aussie” novel. The setting could be any small town or village; where people have lived for generations with their small town suspicions and paranoia, as well as a friendliness and willingness to support each other.
The novel is two stories in one – an Aussie “expat” returns after his best friend apparently kills his wife and son and then himself. He hasn’t been back for nearly twenty years, since he himself was driven away after falling under suspicion of the murder of a sixteen year old girl.
The novel does an excellent job of the tearing down of many emotional scars and the denouement is literally a last page revelation which shocked me to the point of a vocal outburst as I finally realised what had happened!
“…as an Australian I appreciate that this is not a stereotypical “Aussie” novel…”
The novel reaches a conclusion but doesn’t end. There are several threads of the story which leave the reader to guess or hope for certain next steps.
While finally revealing his friend’s fate, the protagonist is also able to bring closure to the murder which drove him away in the first place.
Harper uses the barren landscape of the Australian outback and the effects of drought on the minds and emotions of the town dwellers to directly link to the almost “cut and dried” attitude of the people in the town who want the murder suicide to be the answer and don’t appreciate the “outsider” stirring things up to much.
I would highly recommend this book and hope for more in the future from this author.
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