One Synopsis :
The last bushrangers in Australian history, James and Patrick Kenniff, were at the height at their horse thieving operation at turn of the 20th century. In One, troops cannot pull the Kenniff Gang out of the ranges and plains of Western Queensland – the brothers know the terrain too well, and the locals are sympathetic to their escapades. When a policeman and a station manager go out on patrol from tiny Upper Warrego Station and disappear, Sergeant Nixon makes it his mission to pursue the gang, especially, Jim Kenniff, who becomes for him an emblem of the violence that resides in the heart of the country.
From the award-winning author of The Mary Smokes Boys, One is a novel of minimalist lyrical beauty that traverses the intersections between violence and love. It asks what right one man has to impose his will on another, and whether the written law can ever answer the law of the heart?
The wind drove an anvil of black cloud south over the ranges. This was such a wind as turns over trains. A horse came out of the storm and walked to the edge of the station.
And so begins Patrick Holland‘s atmospheric latest novel One.
In my opinion some of the most powerful fiction is that based on real events. The real events that inspired One occurred just over a century ago in Western Queensland where the author spent his formative years, and his respect for that environment and its people shines through. The Kenniff Gang‘s story is a vehicle Holland uses to explore our enduring fascination with outlaws and those who hunt them, but glorifies neither party.
In his trademark minimalist style he evokes time and place… and while not gratuitous, the discrimination and violence against women and cultural minorities, in particular Aborigines, commonplace at that time is striking. That such open racism and prejudice is jarring to a modern reader shows what progress has been made in a relatively short space of time. On the flip-side, it serves as an important reminder of how quickly without vigilance such common decencies could be lost.
In One Holland explores the concept of exile, and the distinction between law and justice. That a society hunts, exiles or marginalises an individual can often reflect more upon the society than the individual themselves.
In the case of these bushrangers, that politicians allocated such resources to the capture of a single man while violence against minorities, women and children was rampant, poses serious food for thought, and not just in a historical context. A timely reminder that a common enemy can be used to unite society, harness otherwise divided loyalties and divert attention from other problems…
Holland develops compelling tension with short chapters and a narrative viewpoint that alternates between the hunter and the hunted, each plagued by their own demons. Over the course of the tale we learn that what drives these men, and all men, is not so dissimilar — love found and lost, and freedom.
This title is likely to appeal to a broader audience than Holland’s previous work Navigatio.
One is an engrossing read. In lucid prose Holland highlights the fragile balance between the individual and society, and the echoes of not-so-distant history (that are well worth listening to).
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5
Booktopia(Aus) | Bookworld (A&R)
Genre: Literature, Drama, Action-Adventure, Historical, Mystery
This review counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2016.
Author Information: Patrick Holland is the award-winning author of The Source of the Sound, The Mary Smokes Boys, The Long Road of the Junkmailer, Riding the Trains in Japan, The Darkest Little Room and Navigatio. He lives in Brisbane, Australia. Find out more at his website www.patrickholland.com.au
- Check out our interview with Patrick in 2014 on the release of Navigatio
* My receiving a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.