Bluebird (Malcolm Knox, A&U)
A shaggy array of characters populate Malcolm Knox’s ambitious novel, with 50-year-old Gordon Grimes at the centre. An erstwhile journalist and estranged husband, Gordon is determined to preserve a rundown social hub that, like him, is a stubborn holdout from a bygone era. If that setup isn’t subtle in the metaphor department—observe Gordon’s surname and The Lodge’s precarious clifftop perch—such touches fit the book’s rambling brand of dramedy. Reeling from his wife’s recent infidelity and seismic shifts in Bluebird’s titular beach community, Gordon has failed to adapt with the times, despite being a likeable father figure to both his blow-in goddaughter and his teenage son. Knox mentions history and progress throughout the book, positioning the quirky town as an accurate cross-section of modern regional Australia. A family saga involving an entire community, the book reads like an updated answer to Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet. There’s crackling energy (and thorny wit) to the dialogue, though some scenes are overly freighted with small-town backstory and dwell too long on the vagaries of real estate. If Gordon’s redemption is apparent from miles away, it certainly doesn’t come easy to him—and there are plenty of painful laughs along the way.
Doug Wallen is a freelance journalist, copywriter and editor.