May 15, 2009

The Art of the Engine Driver - Steven Carroll


I have discovered a new favourite writer - even though I loved The Lost Life I was still a little hesitant about reading some of Carroll's earlier novels - I wasn't quite sure that a story about an Australian suburb in the 1950's would excite me too much - but I was wrong!

The Art Of The Engine Driver felt seamless to me - the writing, the story and the characters just flowed. I didn't want the story to end but at the same time I just couldn't stop reading it.

The story begins with a family, Vic, Rita and Michael, walking down their street to attend an engagement party for a neighbour. As they walk we learn about their past and what has led them to this suburb at this time. We learn about Vic's passion for his job as a train driver and how he and Rita first met and fell in love. We also hear about Vic's serious drinking problem and how that is impacting on his relationship with both Rita and Michael and, as the story unfolds, we learn about a secret that Vic is keeping from his employers.

As the family walk down the street and pass each house the story of the people in that house is told and reflected upon so that by the time the family reach the party we have a really clear picture of the neighbourhood - and some of the tensions that will be evident at the party.

This suburban story is happening at the same time as a train journey from Melbourne to Sydney - a journey that will correspond with the events at the party as the story goes on.

I know it sounds quite simple - and in some ways it is - but the storytelling is divine and the characterisation perfect. I felt for all of these characters, loved some and hated others - but they all evoked a reaction from me.

The Art Of The Engine Driver is the first book in a trilogy and I will certainly be reading the other two very soon.

104 comments:

adevotedreader said...

I confess despite the Miles Franklin award, I decided a trilogy about Australian suburbia wasn't for me (living there is enough). You've changed my mind though, I'm going book shopping tomorrow and will look for this. I hope I enjoy it as much as you did!

Karen said...

Hi adevotedreader - that's exactly what I was thinking about these books but I think the different era for the setting of the books makes it seem a little removed from our world (well that's what I thought anyway). I really hope you like this one.

Savidge Reads said...

I am really pleased you blogged about this as it sounds like a great read and I wouldnt have bought it for the title! I know, I know, I should know better.

Steph said...

This sounds really good AND it has a gorgeous cover to boot! I would like to read more Aussie fiction (despite never having been there!), and you've convinced me that Carroll is a writer I need to become acquainted with!

Jodie said...

I'm a girl who can't get enough of Neighbours, although I'm sure this Australian suburb is a bit different;) It sounds interesting and engine driving does not usually get that kind of resonse from me.

Karen said...

Hi Savidge Reads - Of course we should know better but I am exactly the same! The title sets up so much about the book - if an author hasn't bothered to put too much thought into the title it does make me worry for the rest of the book!

Hi Steph - I hope you can track down some of Carroll's work - just brilliant! I would definitely encourage you to try more Aussie fiction - there is so much great stuff coming from over here!

Hi Jodie - I have to admit that engine driving doesn't usually get any kind of response from me! But this book definitely made me think about it in a different way.

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