BLACKBIRD by Ivan Southall


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In a masterfully structured novel composed of a few carefully selected incidents and character sketches, a fine Australian author (Hills End) powerfully conveys the impact of WW II on one family--but only to those sophisticated enough to penetrate his demanding style. Will is transplanted to a cold inland outpost away from the action, effectively abandoned by both parents: his father, a colonel, is totally preoccupied by the war; his hyper-articulate mother--who voices some of the book's most pungent and poetic truths--retreats into shopping expeditions, sometimes leaving him without food. Interlaced with glimpses into the future (older brother Geoffrey will die in the war; Will himself will one day be Prime Minister--although, as Mum points out, ""You two brothers were born the wrong way about. . .you're the destroyer and he's the builder""), Will takes refuge in imaginary war games that take him to a perilous perch on the roof. Seized with terror, he falls and is badly hurt. Later, in a long debate with an angry blackbird that mistakenly blames him for its fledgling's death, Will realizes the foolishness of his brother's command that he find the courage to return to the roof, and finally grapples with reality--assuming responsibility for his surroundings, presaging his own future. For the rare child--or adult--who can appreciate its poetry and passion, a gem.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1988
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux