All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Me And Rory Macbeath – Richard Beasley

on May 28, 2013

Rory MacbeathMe And Rory Macbeath
Richard Beasley
Hachette AUS
2013, 371p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Jake Taylor is 12 when his life changes – it’s when he meets Rory Macbeath. For years, it’s been just Jake and his best friend Robbie playing in their street. In summer they play cricket, in winter they kick a footy around. Jake is at first reluctant to accept Rory – after all he’s Scottish and he spends his time kicking a soccer ball. He doesn’t know anything about cricket or proper AFL footy. But Robbie takes to him right away and their group of 2 becomes a group of 3.

Jake has a somewhat unusual life for the 1970’s Adelaide in Australia – he’s being brought up by single mum Harry who is a barrister and he’s been in and out of courts since he could walk. In the long hot summer before high school starts Jake, Robbie and Rory go swimming at the local pool, play sport and go on fishing trips with Robbie’s dad, a police officer. Nights are spent camping out in tents in Robbie’s yards and quite often sneaking out and running around the neighbourhood, attempting to stealthily go over the fence into one yard and get back all their balls from an irate neighbour who confiscates what ever goes over the fence.

But for all the idyllic summer antics, an ugly violence lurks behind one of the closed doors in Rose Avenue. It will have consequences that shatter the boisterous boyhood and send them into an early adulthood.

I won a copy of Me And Rory Macbeath from the publisher and I was quite keen to read it, not just because my youngest is also named Rory and I do like seeing my boys’ names in print! I have a new found interest in reading Australian books by Australian male authors and the more I push myself to find and read them, the more amazing books and authors I discover and this one is no exception. Set in Adelaide, Australia in the late 70s, Jake is our 12yo narrator and already he’s rather older than his years. He’s raised by his chain smoking laywer mother Harry and spends a lot of time in the company of adults, in courtrooms watching Harry do her thing (she’s a criminal defender) and he balances this with long days playing at being an AFL or cricket star with his best mate Robbie. The arrival of Rory to the street throws Jake at first – he’s not sure about Rory. He seems to have no skills, nothing to contribute to the friendship. But just because Rory isn’t familiar with cricket or footy and can’t swim doesn’t mean he’s useless at all. Rory definitely has hidden talents.

The characters are such a high point in this novel – Jake, Robbie and Rory are ordinary boys, making the best of their time before school starts. They have a relatively good amount of freedom, often spending whole days at the local pool. Robbie and Jake have quite different backgrounds, Robbie being a part of the more common two-parent family. In such a time, a full-time working single mother by choice would’ve been rather unusual and Jake does face the odd taunt about not knowing who his dad is. Although an unconventional parent, Harry is a great character – she teaches Jake (and the reader too, actually) so much and her view of the world is an interesting one, which I think is necessary given her job is to get known criminals acquitted. Harry’s job is to find out when the police aren’t doing theirs and she seems to feel no shame about it.

I think another great character in this novel and one that is perhaps overlooked at first, probably almost right until the end of this book, is that of Mrs Macbeath. She takes a while to come into her own, but when she does it’s beautiful. Her narrative is disturbing and also utterly compelling all at the same time. She could be described as weak but there’s a strength in what she endures and a huge strength in her self-sacrifice. She might be equal parts protective and guilty, after all she fostered an environment that led to an incident but Harry takes the time to paint that she really did have little in the way of options. She’s a quiet character, the sort that sneaks into your mind rather than rams into it like Harry. Mrs Macbeath is the character I thought the most about after finishing this book, what her life must’ve been like, the lengths she must’ve gone to in order to try and affect a change, the belief she must’ve had at one time that she could change it…and the hopeless realisation that she couldn’t.

The character of Rory is another standout – he’s raised on a diet of violence and fear, he’s a contradiction. More than once, Rory’s temper rears its head. The first time Jake is grateful, it gets him out of a situation. The second time, Jake is more puzzled than anything, he sees it as unnecessary and probably poor sport. What Rory does is a great indication of what he has been seeing for all of his life – for him it seems like it might’ve been a reflex action because there was nothing telling him that he shouldn’t have done it, like Jake and Robbie would have. But ultimately it is Rory who has the courage (or perhaps the desperation) to change their situation.

Me And Rory Macbeath was a fabulous novel, I was drawn straight in to the world of Jake, Robbie and Rory and the way in which the story unfolded was very well done. It was interesting seeing this sort of story through the eyes of a child – Jake doesn’t notice the signs as early as an adult perhaps might, but the impact was no less. I know the author has written books prior to this including Hell Has Harbour Views which was made into an ABC series some years ago so I’m going to have to make an effort to find that one for my TBR pile.

9/10

Book #131 of 2013

Aussie Author Challenge

Me And Rory Macbeath counts towards my participation in the Aussie Authors Challenge for 2013 where I’m challenging myself to read more books by Australian male authors. This is my fifth novel read and reviewed for the challenge.

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5 responses to “Me And Rory Macbeath – Richard Beasley

  1. Rory says:

    I (not surprisingly) love seeing the name Rory in print. I appreciate it as a boys name and have never actually met another female Rory. Also not surprisingly, I think your youngest has a great name!

  2. Danielle says:

    I saw this on the bookshelf at Readings Hawthorn and added it to my Goodreads pile, to remind myself to check it out and find out more – now your review has tipped this book over into ‘must buy’.

    Good stuff 🙂

  3. […] love overseas but not so much around the Aussie blogs/sites like The Circle by Dave Eggers. I think Me & Rory Macbeath definitely needs more love and I’d love to see books like Life In Outer Space and Hate Is […]

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