Review 1473: A Long Way from Home

A Long Way from Home is almost like two different novels, starting out as a light-hearted romp and finishing with the Australian treatment of its indigenous inhabitants. It is set in 1954 Australia, all over it.

Irene Bobs and her husband Titch are tiny people with a great will to succeed, but they are hampered by the activities of Dangerous Dan Bobs, Titch’s father, who seems to be working against them. When Titch, who is the best car salesman in Southeastern Australia, wants to open his own Ford dealership, Dan prevents it using his influence with his cronies at Ford. Having opened a junk yard, Dan continually drops off expensive objects at Titch’s and then charges him for them.

Irene always vigorously supports Titch against Dan, so when Dan scuppers the Ford dealership, she has already arranged something with GMC. Then, the two get the idea to compete with one of their cars in the Redex Reliability Trial, a grueling test of a car’s endurance on horrendous roads all around Australia. Irene and Titch will be drivers, and their neighbor, Willie Bachhuber, will navigate. Of course, Dan decides to compete against them.

Willie is a recently fired schoolteacher. He is also a competitor on a quiz show and a fugitive, who left his wife after she had a black baby and is wanted for child support. His quiz show work, after a long run, ends when his infatuation with his competitor interferes with his thought processes. He is a great reader of maps, however.

The novel starts out bright and energetic, with vibrant and quirky first-person narration by Irene alternated with that of Willie. It takes a darker turn, though, after an accident with Dan. Soon, Willie is separated from his companions in far Western Australia.

I was really taken with this book, especially at its zippy and vivacious start. I liked the characters, and I thought the ending covers important history about aboriginal abuse. However, these comments don’t convey how the novel zips along in its own quirky way.

I read this book for my Walter Scott prize project.

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8 thoughts on “Review 1473: A Long Way from Home

  1. Helen February 21, 2020 / 3:38 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed this one. I will read it eventually for the Walter Scott Prize too (I need to get back to that project soon – it’s been a while since I read anything for it).

    • whatmeread February 21, 2020 / 4:53 pm

      I was just meaning to check your page to see if I got behind on your reviews, because I don’t have the list memorized. It’s particularly difficult to remember which book is for which prize that I”m reading.

  2. Davida Chazan February 22, 2020 / 10:53 am

    I read ONE book by this author and I was so turned off by him that I never read another thing by him again. Maybe he’s improved since then…

      • whatmeread February 24, 2020 / 12:04 am

        That’s odd. I liked that one. I don’t remember it very well anymore, though.

      • Davida Chazan February 24, 2020 / 12:15 am

        I only read it because someone I know told me that Cary is “the finest living writer in the world today” and that I’d be an idiot to not be a fan. So I decided to read one of his books. This just didn’t work for me, which you’ll see if you look at my review. (The guy later told me that I should have read something else by him, instead. But I was already turned off, so…)

      • whatmeread February 24, 2020 / 10:30 am

        He writes very different books, every time, so trying something else might change your mind, but I wouldn’t call him the finest living writer in the world today.

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