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The Voices by Susan Elderkin

The Voices

by Susan Elderkin

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Initially promising but difficult read - past a certain point, perhaps a third of the way through, the degree to which I was engaged dropped off precipitously. The book tries to tie together a number of different stories using a variety of plotting and pov devices that are compelling initially but rapidly become annoying. The problem for me is that The Voices doesn't know what story thread to concentrate on - there are too many, including a relatively straight ahead narrative that bounces between a couple of time periods following Billy (the main protagonist)'s passage through life, interaction with the spirit girl and mysterious injury - a metaphysical look at aboriginal spirits who discover there is no audience to hear them sing, or place to exist in rapidly changing environment and many many more sub-narratives that try and educate the reader about Australian history, follow characters that exploit the native Aboriginals, others who drop in only to drop out again needlessly consuming pages. There is some funny business involving the spirits, wind, spirit girl and inhabitants of Billy's home town, and an interesting period describing Billy's life when he leaves home for the mines after a major incident. But by the end it all becomes a cacophany of far too many narrative voices, none of which is particularly compelling each unable to conclude their thread before we are cast back to another sub-narrative - the conclusion is deeply unsatisfying and although it tries to resolves the many arcs I don't think it succeeds.

Quite disappointing as the book starts out in a very engaging manner... I will look out for other titles by Elderkin as she has a fine writing style - although I became annoyed by the end there is certainly much to be dazzled by early on - however this one either needed editing down to cover less ground, or major rewriting to flesh out the overwhelming number of pieces. ( )
  gocam | Dec 27, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802141706, Paperback)

A story of incantatory beauty set in the wilds of Australia, Susan Elderkin's second novel The Voices has earned her the distinction from Granta as one of the Best Young British Writers Under 40. In the remote, blood red dust of the Australian bush, thirteen-year-old Billy Saint turns to the stark landscape and mesmerizing spirits of the native Aborigines for the companionship he lacks at home. When he is befriended by Maisie, an enigmatic Aboriginal girl who has "sung him up," he slowly comes to realize that he is meddling with powers far beyond his control. Ten years later, Billy lies in a hospital bed, recovering from gruesome wounds of mysterious origin. Shifting between his hospital stay and the childhood that led him there, The Voices unfolds into a haunting exploration of the relationship between a white man, the land he loves, and the native spirits of the country struggling to be heard before they are lost forever.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:45 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"In the remote, blood-red landscape of the Australian bush, thirteen-year-old Billy Saint hears the haunting song of an Aboriginal girl. The song tugs at something deep, something larger and more powerful than himself. She has sung Billy up - and he is destined to love her for ever." "In an Alice Springs hospital ten years later, recovering from gruesome wounds of mysterious origin, Billy attempts to explain the voices in his head. But only Cecily, the Aboriginal nurse, will listen. What unravels is a mesmerising account of the relationship between a man, the land he loves, and the spirits of the country, struggling to be heard before it's too late."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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