Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Byron Journals - Daniel Ducrou

The Facts
Author: Daniel Ducrou
Publisher: Text Publishing
Date of Publication: June 2010
Length: 304 pages

The Fiction
From the Publisher: Andrew and his mate Benny have finished school and are heading for the holiday of their lives in Byron Bay. They are not sure what they’re looking forward to most: the surf, the girls, the music, the partying or just being away from Adelaide. Things don’t go to plan, and Andrew loses his mates. But he finds Heidi. Heidi is not like anyone he’s ever met before, and she takes him into her world, which feels a million miles away from his past. But is Andrew really prepared for the ride he’s about to take?

I’m not quite sure how to begin – I’ll be honest and say I’ve had mixed feelings about this title – I can’t necessarily say I enjoyed reading it, but I’m glad I did (if that makes sense? Probably not.)

Firstly, from early on I had a feeling that the story of young Andrew was not going to end well. Pretty quickly after his arrival in Byron Bay, Andrew starts doing some dumb (albeit mostly normal teenage schoolie things). And then things get worse – and I kept screaming (in my head – not at the actual book because that would be weird, though not altogether abnormal for me) ‘DON’T DO IT’ and though I knew that this could only end badly, I couldn’t help but want to read on. Andrew is a realistic and well-written character, and I did find it hard at times, to see him stuff things up so badly and get involved in with people and things that I knew were trouble.

Dan Ducrou’s writing though, is excellent. He keeps upping the stakes and whilst you know deep down it can only go badly, you can’t help but watch in amazement as it all starts to fall apart. The other aspect which I found made reading The Byron Journals a bit of a struggle at times for me, was that all of the female characters were quite unlikeable and I couldn’t relate (or even really sympathise) with them at all – but that’s just me.

Ducrou’s writing is incredibly emotive and he does a brilliant job at capturing a place – as you read, you can really feel the humidity, sticky, sweatiness of Byron Bay. He allows you to get lost in the endless warm summer days and the frenetic, hedonistic nightlife. All of the scenes involving music and drumming are really fantastic and full of life.

Due to the drug references and the (erm) detailed sex scenes, I would recommend The Byron Journals for 16+ (older YA I suppose? Young-at-heart adult? For people who aren’t bothered by sex and drugs? For people who enjoy sex and drugs?). The Byron Journals, for me, was a challenging, and at times, confronting read. Dan Ducrou has written an in-your-face honest portrayal of life post-high school and the freedom and possibility it holds for young adults. Whilst I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have other titles from Text this year, I’m glad to have read something that did put me a little out of my comfort zone. I’d love to hear what others have thought of it, so if you’ve read The Byron Journals, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Also, as a side-note, I saw The Byron Journals pitched as a film concept at Books at MIFF this year and whilst I didn't connect so much with the novel, I could completely visualise it as a film and could see how well it would work on-screen.


Nomes said...

Ah, great review of this. i feel the same way.

i gave it 3 stars, then 4, then 3, then 4, ad infintum...

the reason i keep wanting to bump it to 4 is because it's so brilliantly written. especially (as you said) the music scenes, and just creating the atmosphere. it's fantastic in raising the stakes and building to a climax - and just filling the reader with general dread. also, i read it in less than 2 days...

still, i don't know why this has been marketed as YA? i'm 30 and at times it was too overwhelming for me (in terms of that hedonistic content - although, I am not big on the drug scene at the best of times) i can only imagine what my teen self would have thought reading this one, haha. i was a little shocked at times.

also, not sure the girls are meant to be likeable? i think it's a novel about getting caught up in that swirl of a lifestyle. it's a very different novel to what i imagined it was going to be when i read the blurb.

i really admire the prose and the craft and the execution. i can see how it will make a great gritty Aussie movie as well (not one I would watch though :)

Nic @ Irresistible Reads said...

Wonderful review. Both your's and Nomes' reviews have made me even more curious about this. I might have to move it up the pile :)

Cass (Words on Paper) said...

It's really cool that there's a novel about Byron Bay and schoolies. :P Everytime I watch the news there's ALWAYS a mention of schoolies, usually followed with an incriminating video of drunk and agressive teens being dragged by police. Yikes!

Maybe I could live my schoolies through this book. Though, if it's THAT overwhelming for both of you, maybe I shouldn't try it. I don't know what to take from this review, to be honest. That The Byron Journals is both beautifully written and painful to read?

food for silverfish said...

i like this review. haha you were much more diplomatic about your reaction to the female characters than i was in mine.

Girl Friday said...

Nomes - thanks! I agree re:marketing as YA, though at the same time, I kind of understand from a publisher's point of view, as there's really no existing market for post-high-school/undergrad fiction books - it's kind of either YA or Adult. Oh, I agree and totally get what you mean re: female characters - but I guess I found it hard at times to want to read on, when there wasn't any characters I could really to or even feel sympathy for (except Andrew and even then, sometimes I was like arggggh)

Nic - thanks Nic! I do think it's worth a read, if you're not uncomfortable with drug references etc and like something more of a challenge

Cass - Hmmm, I found it really hard to write about this book. Personally I couldn't relate or even sympathise with the characters, but Dan Ducrou does a brilliant job at writing place and really taking you into the experiences of his experiences.

Dugong Lady - haha, thank you! Yep, was not a fan of Heidi or Jade

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