This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Feather Man by Rhyll McMaster

Feather Man

by Rhyll McMaster

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4518377,944 (3.5)13



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 13 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'm trying my best to read this book but 64 pages in, I want to give up. The writing is all over the place, saying everything but not saying anything. ( )
  r0ckcandy | Aug 8, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Rhyll McMaster knows how to rivet her readers’ attention. The opening scene in Feather Man depicts Sooky, the pre-adolescent protagonist, being molested by Lionel, the creepy pedophile next door. It’s no accident that this is our introduction to Sooky, because it’s this abuse that shapes Sooky’s entire story – her adult behavior, her relationships with men, her sense of self-worth.

The story is narrated by Sooky, looking back on her childhood in dusty suburban Brisbane, where she is neglected by disinterested parents and pawned off on Lionel (dubbed “Feather Man” by the girl because of his brood of hens), an elderly neighbor with a bedridden wife. Despite feeling ashamed of the sexual abuse, she also craves his attention because it is the only time she is made to feel special. Her mother is a stereotypical shrill harridan and her father, whom she dotes on, is a vaguely disinterested adulterer.

As Sooky matures, McMaster gives the reader glimpses into the great divide between how she views herself and how the world perceives her. As a young adult, she becomes a rather prolific artist and begins to find modest success. But she doesn’t seem to express any particular passion for her art and then blithely abandons it for marriage to a rival artist – Lionel’s equally creepy son Redmond. And yet her work, which is described in detail, sounds arresting and unique. Outwardly, Sooky, like her artwork, displays the brash bravado of a rebel, but inside she isn’t particularly impressed with herself, frequently deferring to the whims of the mediocre men in her life. In her own mind, she is secondary to them, so much so that even in her own life story the chapters are entitled Lionel, Peter, Redmond and Paul.

I found this one a tough go in parts. The main character has an almost laissez faire attitude about her own best interests; there is little rage or self-pity and, for a reader, it feels a bit maddening. Yet there’s enough oddball humor to keep the proceedings afloat. One particularly memorable scene involves Sooky inadvertently lighting her veil on fire at her wedding reception, causing a sensation and landing her in the paper – only to be met with outrage by her husband for upstaging him.

McMaster is a wonderful writer. She evokes a very tangible sense of place - from the stifling backwater of Brisbane to the grotty bohemia of the London art world. Plus all of the secondary characters are nuanced and believable. But Sooky is certainly her masterwork. In her, McMaster has created a difficult, contradictory, infuriating, funny and admirable protagonist. Truly one of most believable characters I’ve come across in fiction. ( )
  blakefraina | Aug 7, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Rhyll McMaster is obviously a very talented writer; her prose is wonderful and descriptive and a joy to read. The book, however, was impossible for me. Regardless of the great writing the story itself was much too dark for me to enjoy. It made me feel awful to read about the young protagonist and her troubles, and I finally had to put it down. I've always prided myself on my ability to finish every book I start, but I simply couldn't do it with this book. Perhaps if I give it some time and return to it, I'll feel differently about it, but for now it's going to have to sit on my shelf and wait. ( )
  pinprick | Aug 6, 2009 |
I feel this is a well-written book, but it wasn't for me. The story flowed nicely, and was quite descriptive. I learned a lot from the book, but it was too depressing for me. The main character went through so much unhappiness, and was sexually abused by a neighbor as a young child. Add to that neglectful parents, and it was just a little too harsh of a reality for me. ( )
  wbarker | Mar 30, 2009 |
Fantastic. The story traces the development of a young girl nicknamed Sooky, and the novel is structured around her 4 key male partners. The setting is Brisbane in the 60's and Sooky has a fairly dysfunctional family. She feels very close to her father but he becomes progressively crazy and disinterested in her. Her mother is closed off and cruel. Seeking contact she spends a lot of time with the neighbours, Lionel and Dolly. Lionel has chooks and he encourages Sooky to be his helper. He artfully builds an intimacy between them which leads to sexual abuse. The abuse takes place on the floor of the chook pen and is described in the first chapter. A stunning start – no slow reveal here!

Given the lack of support and warmth in her home situation, combined with the manipulative skill of Lionel, it is quite plausible that Sooky would eventually fall victim. Her response to the abuse is explored in detail. Clearly the abuse harms her at a very deep level – she shuts herself off from the abuse and creates a shell, a façade, with her emotions well concealed. But there’s also ambivalence. She still wants to have Lionel’s attention. It is better than his rejection – it is better than being ‘loved’ by no one.

It is unclear whether Sooky's parents or Lionel's wife have any awareness of what’s going on., but it seems at least possible - and what's more they seem intent on pushing her towards Lionel.

I think the first section of the book is the best. It paints a terrific picture of family life in Brisbane in the 60's.

The novel goes on to describe Sooky's relationship with three other men, her move to UK, and the development of her ability as a painter. Along the road of her life Sooky makes some very bad choices, but we can see why this happens, and it's good to see that she eventually starts to use her real name and develop a stronger sense of self .

Given that she seems to have at last achieved a sense of wholeness and realness the closing line is quite perplexing. Just when she seems to have finally pulled herself together the final line suggest her partner may be another colonizing male…. and she may once again let herself be a victim.

The story emerges from a very deep, intense place – the emotions expressed are visceral and powerful. The focus is on the internal, the state of mind, the feelings, the perceptions of the heroine. The connections, associations seem derived in part from the unconscious. The use of nursery rhymes, dreams, fairy stories also convey primitive sources.

Bringing the skills of a poet to the task McMaster writes lyrically, choosing each detail, image and word with great care and precision. She uses short, clear sentences.

This novel reminded me of another excellent book about sexual abuse of children - 'Choo Woo' by Lloyd Jones (author of 'Mr Pip'). ( )
  RobinDawson | Jan 15, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
The day before had been a day of rain and once again Lionel and I were busy in the chook yard.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0714531480, Paperback)

"In this beautifully written and disturbing Australian coming-of-age novel, McMaster tells the story of Sooky, who struggles to overcome her difficult childhood, the effects of which are powerfully portrayed as she moves from relationship to relationship and from Brisbane to London."—Boston Globe

“I think it’s quite wonderful. Beautifully written. Engrossing and utterly involving and it does something new.”—Maureen Freely

"Let me say that Rhyll McMaster is an extraordinary writer. Her prose is dazzling, poetic and thought-provoking, and this is literary fiction at its best... I have likened Rhyll McMaster to Margaret Atwood. Atwood is brilliant, but in my view McMaster is even better. Feather Man has quite rightly won literary prizes in Australia and my money is on Feather Man making the Booker Prize longlist here." —Vulpes Libris

Winner of the Barbara Jefferis Award 2008

Winner of the Glenda Adams Award for New Writing 2008

Set in Brisbane during the stultifying 1950s and moving to grubby London in the 1970s, Feather Man is about Sooky who, ignored and misunderstood by her parents, is encouraged to make herself scarce and visit Lionel, their elderly next door neighbor.

The early pages of Feather Man are full of images of suburban life in Brisbane in the 1950s. The Thor washing machine thunders away. A kookaburra is perched on the oven door. Sooky’s mother is often chained to the treadmill of her sewing machine. The novel follows Sooky through four relationships with men and her entry into the art world, but the truth is, she is never able to survive unless a relationship is providing the context, however bad it may be.

My hands still gripped his shoulders. I felt the bat wings of hair that ran across his back. He pushed his face close to mine. I looked at his eyes. They were remarkable, glassy, with yellow rays, but now they had a white glare in them, as if I was looking up close into the tunnel of a turned-on torch.
‘Whose girl are you?’ He gave my shoulders a shake.
‘I’m nobody’s girl. I’m me.’

Rhyll McMaster, born in 1947, started writing poetry whilst a child. Washing the Money won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and the Grace Leven Prize. Feather Man is her first novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:23 -0400)

"Set in Brisbane during the stultifying 1950s, and moving to the grubby London of the 1970s, Feather Man is about Sooky, who, ignored by her parents, is encouraged to make herself scarce and visit Lionel, their elderly next dour neighbour." "McMaster brings Brisbane to life, depicting a home full of powerful emblems, The Thor washing machine thunders away. A kookaburra is perched on the oven door." "Following Sooky from her neglected childhood to womanhood and her entry into the an world, the book combines comedy with emotional intensity. When Sooky's attraction to Redmond leads her to London, her past follows her into the future in a deadly confrontation."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alum

Rhyll McMaster's book Feather Man was available from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Sign up to get a pre-publication copy in exchange for a review.

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.5)
1 1
2 3
2.5 1
3 1
3.5 4
4 6
4.5 1
5 3

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 134,092,367 books! | Top bar: Always visible