Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta

The Facts
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Penguin
Date: March 2010
Length: 336 pages

The Fiction
From Goodreads: Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.
But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle's death.  And in a year when everything's broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.

Firstly, I have to admit I was a little bit nervous before reading this. I had very, very high expectations and was scared that The Piper's Son wouldn't be able to measure up to them and to Saving Francesca (which I loved and connected very strongly with). Despite this, I was looking forward to being reunited with Tom, Frankie and the rest of the gang, and finding out what happened to them following the events of Saving Francesca.

Of course, I shouldn't have worried because once again Melina Marchetta has delivered a novel which submerges you into the lives of her characters and full of beautiful, heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud moments (maybe I shouldn't admit this but I got teary just flicking back through the book when composing this review). I am a big fan of Thomas Mackee. Something drew me to him in Saving Francesca and was thrilled to be able to explore his story. Whilst some of his actions and attitude in The Piper's Son are a bit questionable, there is something so inherently likeable about him - that Marchetta reminds us of throughout the novel (I was discussing this book with a friend and we both called Tom 'a loveable dickhead', which I think captures him pretty well).

I was a little bit uncertain of the Georgie/Tom alternating chapters (which is silly because it's fairly well known I love split-narratives), but it worked so well - I felt the stories were able to balance each other out - like Georgie's pain over the loss of her brother may be followed by sharp, witty e-banter between Tom and Tara. I also found the third-person narration a bit off-putting at first (mostly because I've been so use to the first-person style of Marchetta's earlier works), but again, I quickly came round to it and it worked.

As I mentioned earlier, there are so many beautiful and heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud moments in The Piper's Son - I loved any scene with the chaos of the Mackee-Finch clan together under the one roof, and anything involving the Saving Francesca/Union hotel gang. I also loved the inclusion of emails in The Piper's Son - they were all so incredibly well done (I sometimes find that they don't always function effectively as a narrative device), but once again, perfect.

Whilst I still hold a special place for Saving Francesca, I found The Piper's Son to be exactly what I needed at the time of reading. It is a more adult read than Marchetta's other works, (though will surely be enjoyed by teens), and I definitely appreciated this (having been seventeen when I first read SF and am now in my early twenties, like Tom and Frankie). I loved being able to return to such well-written, developed characters and see how their lives have unfolded (for both the better and worse). Another insightful novel from Melina Marchetta, one of my favourite reads of 2010 so far.

Melina Marchetta will be appearing at the 2010 Melbourne Writers Festival at the following panels:
How I Write (Monday August 30) and The Piper's Son (Tuesday August 31).


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