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Rifling Paradise by Jem Poster

Rifling Paradise

by Jem Poster

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433267,810 (3.5)5

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A good light read - I was surprised how quickly I devoured the 320+ pages.
The main protagonist is of ambiguous sexuality - seems to be gay at the start, but ends up married at the end - but consummation doesn't seem to have yet occurred. None of this really matters, but it made me reflect how rarely I come across a main character in mainstream fiction who is other than straight heterosexual.
Read March 2016 ( )
  mbmackay | Mar 7, 2016 |
This novel takes Victorian themes of repression and stifling structure and applies contemporary psychological interpretations to them. It also offers a post-colonial interpretation of exploration and British cultural influence. Still, the Victorian setting heightens the exotic feel and the social constraints of the era add drama to rather complex human realities.

Taken as a whole, the plot is very simple: the characters suffer in fairly predictable ways, yet the metaphor of nature connected with good and evil, and the lush descriptive language used to build that metaphor, save this book from being another tiresome contemporary psychological novel. This is a moving and entertaining story. Structurally it maintains a good balance of descriptive detail and narrative movement. Because these characters seem so psychologically developed and self-aware, it is impossible not to wonder how these same characters would fare in a contemporary setting. ( )
  briantomlin | Jul 22, 2009 |
This wasn't a perfect book, but it was near enough for me to really enjoy it. It's the story of Charles Redbourne, a late nineteenth century English gentleman who finds himself involved in some "indiscretions" with young boys - one of whom has hanged himself. Redbourne's solution to his problem is to get out of Dodge. He heads for Australia with visions of fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a naturalist. With the financial backing of a wealthy London uncle, he sets off for New South Wales and plans to collect specimens to bring back to Britain. "Collecting" specimens in this context means killing, skinning, stuffing, etc. birds and animals. Along the way, Redbourne meets up with a wealthy landowner named Vane and his troubled daughter, Eleanor. The reader is led to believe that Vane is molesting his daughter, but by the end of the story I wasn't completely sure if she had concocted the whole story or not. Redbourne then sets off on an expedition with Bullen, a brutish Australian, and Billy, their mixed-race guide. I think Poster gets a little too politically correct at times. The viciousness of Bullen toward Billy and his belief in aboriginal spirits, for instance, is a bit overdone, as is Bullen's attitude toward killing animals and his disregard for the landscape around him. Redbourne is set up as a civilised man who sees the beauty in the world around him, and begins to question his initial goals. It's not much of a surprise that Bullen comes to an unpleasant end. I think Eleanor is meant to be yet another "wild thing" to be tamed and brought back to Britain, as she marries Redbourne upon his return from the expedition. In the end, however, he seems to be questioning that decision as well. ( )
1 vote miss_read | Jun 3, 2007 |
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It occurred to me later that I must have registered their approach a minute or so before the first stone struck the window.
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When past indiscretions catch up with Charles Redbourne, he is shipped off to Australia where he plans to make his mark as a naturalist. His life begins to change when he meets his host's wayward, artistic daughter - but it is on an expedition in the Blue Mountains where events take a terrifying turn.… (more)

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