Book review: Goodwood by Holly Throsby

Saturday, October 1, 2016 Permalink

Goodwood is Australian author Holly Throsby’s first novel; but she’s also a songwriter and musician who’s released solo albums and a children’s album. The publisher’s blurb talks about Holly’s distinctive and lyrical voice – something that’s certainly true. I’m not familiar with any of her music but I get a sense of who she is and what her music would be like through this book, its narrative and its characters.

Book review: Goodwood by Holly ThrosbyGoodwood
by Holly Throsby
Published by Allen & Unwin
on September 27th 2016
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: General Fiction
ISBN: 9781760293734
Pages: 377

Goodwood is a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone. It's a place where it's impossible to keep a secret.

In 1992, when Jean Brown is seventeen, a terrible thing happens.
Two terrible things. Rosie White, the coolest girl in town, vanishes overnight. One week later, Goodwood's most popular resident, Bart McDonald, sets off on a fishing trip and never comes home.

People die in Goodwood, of course, but never like this. They don't just disappear.

As the intensity of speculation about the fates of Rosie and Bart heightens, Jean, who is keeping secrets of her own, and the rest of Goodwood are left reeling.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the sense of uncertainty and loss of innocence. It’s not a novel of suspense or a thriller. Sure, Jean, her family and the town are focussed around the double disappearances but they never really seem to worry there’s a baddie in their midst. There are the usual miscreants who’ve been problems all of their lives but any fear seems to mostly come from external sources.

Throsby’s references to Belanglo State Forest and the backpacker murders help ground the novel and she does a great job when it comes to scene setting – in terms of time and place. The book’s set in a time of pre-mobile telephones, pre-internet and I found myself wallowing in a sense of warm nostalgia as I remember those days of ignorant bliss. I love the internet and online world – obviously – but there was something to be said for the days when information (good and bad) was not at our fingertips and our lives smaller and more familiar.

Throsby offers up some great female role models for Jean. Her own mother and grandmother are both well-educated, considerate and contemplative women… and though Jean’s a tad disdainful when it comes to her Pop, local police officer (and her mother’s cousin) Mack, gives us a respectful and nuanced male lead.

It took me a little while to get used to Throsby’s folksy occasionally-rambling language. My first thought was that it needed an edit, before settling into an acceptance that I was listening to a 17yr old girl’s narrative in – what is essentially – a coming of age novel, for Jean and Goodwood.

This was a happily understated and very enjoyable read and great debut. And incidentally I note it very much reflects the author (an authenticity that’s nice to see) as I scanned through Throsby’s website.

Goodwood by Holly Throsby was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

  • Jo
    October 1, 2016

    I was keen to read your review of this one- I enjoy Holly’s indie/folksie style of music…

    • Debbish
      October 1, 2016

      You’ll love this book Jo. Jean’s really likeable. I noted at one point it was like listening to someone speaking.

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