Oh I'm so glad that I finally got around to The Dry, and so glad that it lives up to the hype. That is of course the major risk of leaving a phenomenally successful book a few years, yes the buzz has died down, but then there's years of accumulated expectations, not many books can survive that- but The Dry certainly did.
I was hooked from the very start, the prologue is haunting, and daily reality for many Australian farmers.
It wasn't as though the farm hadn't seen death before, and the blowflies didn't discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse.Bam!
The drought had left the flies spoiled for choice that summer. They sought out unblinking eyes and sticky wounds as the farmers of Kiewarra levelled their rifles at skinny livestock. No rain meant no feed. And no feed made for difficult decisions, as the tiny town shimmered under day after day of burning blue sky.Thirty six year old Aaron Falk returns to his hometown in country Victoria for the funeral of his childhood best friend, Luke Hadler. Luke it seems has killed his wife and young son, and then turned the gun on himself. A type of murder-suicide that is all too common. But a few things don't add up from the start. How did the infant daughter survive for one?
Aaron is a financial detective with the Australian Federal Police, who has lived in Melbourne since he and his father suddenly left Kiewarra under a cloud twenty years ago. He hates returning due to the echoes from twenty years ago, and can't wait to leave town again, he is counting down the hours til he can quietly leave.
Jane Harper writes a great story, and one that kept me guessing (wrongly to a large extent, although I did get some minor things right) until the end. Although I was quite confused by some of the twenty year old scenario, and had to dip into sections of the print copy that I have after I finished the audiobook to straighten it out in my head. But she really used emotion very well. We get perspective from many characters, with many different points of view. It's not just a police procedural kind of thriller, there's a great emotional depth to the characters. She was a finance journalist for over a decade and it shows in her understanding of the different characters. And there's lots of great characters here. The town, the pub, the town bullies, the town drunks, the small minds, they all feel real.
'No-one tells you this is how it's going to be, do they? Oh yes, they're all so sorry for your loss, all so keen to pop round and get the gossip when it happens, but no-one mentions having to go through your dead son's drawers and return their library books, do they? No-one tells you how to cope with that.'I enjoyed the story from the start, but from about half way through I was totally hooked, and I listened to second half of the book on a single day, "reading" well past my bed time, and into the wee small hours- at which time I fell asleep with 15 minutes to go. Just. Couldn't. Stay. Awake... Luckily I could finish it off the next morning.
Steve Shanahan does a really great job of narrating the audio book, his laconic Australian drawl was a perfect choice, but I really wish that audiobook editors (that must be a job, yes?) would put a tiny extra pause to give the listener a clue as to when the narrative changes back and forth in time. Readers of The Dry get a change from roman to italic fonts, listeners to the otherwise excellent audiobook don't get any kind of indication that we're jumping back and forth by 20 years.
The Dry has won many, many awards starting from before it was even published when it won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015.
Jane Harper has now published three books and you can be sure that the next two have pushed their way up towards the top of my TBR. I've already downloaded her second (audio)book, Force of Nature, another Aaron Falk story, but I believe not directly related to The Dry.
A movie version of The Dry is in production, and will start filming next month in Victoria. Which is great timing on my part, by the time the movie comes out I should have forgotten enough details to make it even more enjoyable. Eric Bana has been cast to play Aaron Falk. It should be great. I can't wait.
Jane Harper did a TEDTalk about creativity late last year.