Goodwood (Holly Throsby, A&U)
It’s fitting that a reviewer once described Australian musician Holly Throsby as ‘a songstress with [the] literary depth of a novelist’, because Throsby is now writing fiction—and her debut, Goodwood, applies the moody introspection of her songs to a page-turning mystery. In 1992, Jean Brown is 17 and has lived nearly all her life in Goodwood, a quintessential country town: tucked between a mountain and a river, it’s got two pubs, a takeaway and a fishing parade, and everybody knows everybody else’s business. But when 18-year-old Rosie White vanishes, followed a week later by beloved local butcher Bart McDonald, Goodwood is cast beneath the long shadow of grief and distrust. Looking back on the strange events of that year, Jean gradually reveals Goodwood’s dark secrets. Throsby does a wonderful job of evoking small-town Australian life. Although some of her characters are cut from familiar cloth—Mack the good-hearted cop, Coral the insatiable gossip—they’re so finely observed that you can’t help but be charmed by them. With laconic wit and deft plotting, Throsby seamlessly weaves Jean’s coming-of-age with the novel’s central mystery, lending the narrative a touching sense of nostalgia. Throsby hits all the right notes in Goodwood—similar to Karen Foxlee’s The Anatomy of Wings and Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones, it’s a nuanced portrayal of the damage created by hidden truths in tight-knit communities.
Carody Culver is a freelance writer and editor and a bookseller at Brisbane’s Avid Reader