Thursday, June 14, 2012

From the author

When reading To the Highlands, Josef Conrad’s Heart of Darkness comes to mind, and of course, as you state in your own acknowledgements, so does Randolph Stow’s To the Islands. Can you comment on the influence or connection these works have with your own?

This was a book I never thought to write and probably never wanted to write. I seemed sure my next book would cover this stage of my early life in a cursory manner and I would not have to explore it in any detail. But on reflection I realised I could not escape the plunge into what were the two darkest years of my first 30 – 1968 and 1969. Before I stuck my head down for the final plunge I re-read Heart of Darkness and To the Islands. They gave me courage and made it clear to me that none of us in that mixed-race island group were Conrad’s Kurtz, the lost mad soul up the Congo, or Stow’s Heriot, the lost and wandering missionary. Some of us, however, were a mix, certainly one with a bit more Kurtz and others with a bit more Heriot.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012



To the Highlands (Jon Doust, Fremantle Press, $29.99 tpb, ISBN 9781921888779, August)

What is a man and how does a boy become one? Jack
Muir was searching for the answers to these questions
in Boy on a Wire, the first book in Jon Doust’s semiautobiographical
coming-of-age trilogy, set in an
exclusive boys’ boarding school in 1960s Perth, which was
longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. Readers return
to Jack’s story in To the Highlands. It’s 1968—a year of
global revolution. Jack still has his sense of humour, he’s
finished school and he’s off to work in ‘the islands’ for
the Colonial Bank of Australia. Obsessed with losing
his virginity, desperate for love but only just discovering
lust, and consumed by inexplicable rage and a desire for
revenge, Jack is initiated into the expat lifestyle and it
swallows him whole. There are more big issues in this
book, including racism, misogyny, domestic violence,
alcohol abuse, the entitlements of white colonialism and
the emerging political independence of an island nation.
Named after Randolph Stow’s 1958 Miles Franklin
winner To the Islands, this is a compelling, unsettling
and confronting sequel to Boy on a Wire. There is a
relentless rawness to this book that makes its moments
of tenderness hit their mark even more keenly.
Paula Grunseit is a freelance journalist, editor
and reviewer