The Master and the Newbie

The Bogan Mondrian – Steven Herrick Cedar Valley – Holly Throsby

He’s been around for a while, has Steven Herrick. A new one from him is a cause for celebration. For Holly Throsby came the big test – her sophomore novel. Her first publication was a ripper, but it is the case with many starting out that the second offering can be problematical. Her first book was well regarded by the critics and public alike. How would number two stack up?

Both authors this time have gone bush to regional centres. Herrick’s is located not too far away from the big smoke, up in the Blue Mountains around Katoomba. Throsby’s is further out, at Cedar Valley, just down the road from Goodwood. It’s set in the recent past, the former novelist’s in the present.

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Herrick consistently turns out quality product with engaging characters all YA (and other) readers can relate to. His latest is no exception. If there’s a wrong side of the tracks in Katoomba, Luke’s from there. He’s no fool, but school isn’t high on his list of priorities and he’s sorely missing his knock-about father. He struggles to give emotional support to his grieving mother. He’s into photography, always a plus, likes dogs and a rough diamond of a fellow he meets near his swimming hole, who just may be involved in criminal activity. Charlotte is new to his class and you would think, seemingly, has it all – but something is not quite right with her world either. Her father is knock-about too, but in an entirely different sense. And the lass has a thing for the artist Mondrian. These two damaged souls team up and try to set their worlds to right.

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There’s much to relish in ‘The Bogan Mondrian’. I wouldn’t rate it amongst Herrick’s best, but the same deft, sensitive and assured touch he’s used in all his past work remains evident – long may he keep producing these captivating tomes for us to cherish.

On handing over ‘Cedar Valley’ to the lovely assistant in Dymocks I asked had she read ‘Goodwood’. She answered in the affirmative, stating she loved it. She hadn’t read this latest tome, but reported that one of her customers had given the feedback that it wasn’t nearly as commendable. That almost put me off buying it myself. Now I’m pleased I did – pleased to assure that, in my view, that customer was wrong. I thought this the superior of the two. Perhaps it was that, at 21, the main protagonist was a little older than the one in ‘Goodwood’ and therefore appealed more to me. Perhaps it was its link to a very mysterious real event in Adelaide decades ago. Whatever, this was a real page turner.

Benny comes to the small town, temporarily, to find out more details about her recently deceased mother, Viv. She was resident in the valley for a while. The daughter knows little about her mum and is attempting to discover more from Vivian Moon’s old friend Odette. Some of what she finds out isn’t entirely to her liking, but what is is her burgeoning friendship with the older woman, her job at the local pub and the town itself. But how is her arrival linked with that of another soul who turned up on the same day and promptly sat down in the main drag?

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Throsby’s pace is quite laid back, taking her time to get around to presenting a neat answer to all the questions the various threads raise. There are also the usual bucolic stereotypes, but the novel wears these well and it never lapses into tweeness. The total package is a joy.

Having already conquered the world of music, Margaret’s daughter has the potential to do the same with her writing. With a bit of luck, one day, when we hear her name, we may think of her latter talent rather that the former. It doesn’t matter though. She’s magic at both.

Holly’s website = https://hollythrosby.com/

Steven’s website = http://www.stevenherrick.com.au/

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