Snapshots from a novel #4

I’ve been re-reading Peter Temple’s acclaimed The Broken Shore, partly because I wanted to prep for reading his Miles Franklin award-winning Truth. As I understand it, the two books aren’t sequential but some of the characters are shared. Whatever the case, I’ve enjoyed my second reading of The Broken Shore even more than the first.

The descriptive writing is very, very good and takes me back to places I visited and covered as a journalist out west on Victoria’s shipwreck coast. The images of small towns and their residents ring true, as does the daily pain endured by the battered lead detective.

The story begins and ends with this detective senior sergeant and his dogs – a pair of poodles. I can’t remember ever seeing dogs portrayed so vividly. Thanks to Temple, I can imagine their thumping tails, their cavorting through overgrown paddocks and exuberant exploration of puddled creekbeds.

Here’s a sample of the poodle passages:

“… as he put his hand out to the gate, they reached him. Their black curly heads tried to nudge him aside, insisting on entering first, strong black legs pushing. He unlatched the gate, they pushed it open enough to slip in, nose to tail, trotted down the path to the shed door. Both wanted to be first again, stood with tails up, furry scimitars, noses touching at the door jamb.” (p1)

“They walked back the long way, it was clearing now, pale blue islands in the sky, dogs ranging ahead like minesweepers.” (p64)

“… the dogs hunted the cleared area, much taken with the smells released by the mowing…” (p131)

“He fell asleep in the big shabby chair, woke in early light, two dogs nudging him, their tails crossing like furry metronomes.” (p135)

“The dogs bounded back to him, the lovely bouncing run, the ears afloat. They jumped up, put their paws on him and spoke to him.” (p184)

“It was long dark by the time he switched off and saw the torch beam coming down the side of the house, saw the running dogs side by side, heads up, big ears swinging. They were at the vehicle before he could get out. He had to fight their weight to open the door.” (p264)

There’s plenty more, too. I’m not a ‘dog person’ but Temple’s writing just about persuaded me to head down to the Lost Dogs’ Home and find a new friend. Don’t tell the kittens.

4 thoughts on “Snapshots from a novel #4”

  1. Tim, his doggie descriptors are lovely and if it tempts a cat person, then it’s high praise indeed.

    I finished ‘Five Parts Dead’ the other night and think that my daughter will love it. It’s gritty and you have him thinking and speaking exactly as a teenaged-boy would, but there’s so much in it for kids who aren’t quite there yet but see and hear enough about peer pressure, drink driving and other dangers to find out that the lingering tortures of guilt, suffering and anger remain long after the memorial services have finished. The sub-story about the pitiless lives of the innkeeper and families also gave the boy a chance to focus on something outside of his own guilt and get ‘closure’ through investigating it and losing himself in imagining how tough those times must have been like. Brilliant!

  2. G’day Kath – I’m most chuffed that you enjoyed 5PD and rapt that you sussed out why I combined some of the different elements. Thank you!


  3. He does do a beautiful job doesn’t he. There is a damn good reason that man wins those awards.

    I was never a big fan of ghost stories really, till this one author I know wrote a book with a ghost story in it… 🙂

  4. Ha. I wasn’t much of a ghost story person either. But I read quite a few before and during writing 5PD so I wouldn’t make a total goose of myself. I did borrow some ghostly stories from friends’ lives too. That final scene at the cemetery is based on a similar eery moment that one of my best friends experienced.

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