Mallee Boys by Charlie Archbold

Mallee Boys

by Charlie Archbold

Sometimes I feel like I'm neither one thing nor another. I live in the Mallee but I don't like the desert. I live on a farm but I get hay fever and I'm scared of goats. I like school but my best mates don't. I'm stuck between stuff. It's like I'm not meant to be here but I am.Sandy Douglas knows that life at fifteen is hard, but it's even harder when your mother died a year ago and nothing's gone right since. His brother Red, on the other hand, is eighteen now and working the farm. He's amped up on rage and always looking for a fight. And then there's their dad Tom. He does his best, but - really - he doesn't have a clue.As Sandy and Red deal with girls, dirt biking, footy and friendship, both boys have to work out who they want to be, without their mum around. The Mallee, where they live, may seem like the middle of nowhere, but it turns out this is going to be one hell of a year.Winner of the 2016 Adelaide Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award

Reviewed by Kelly on

5 of 5 stars

As the dust blows through the arid Mellee district, fifteen year old Sandy Douglas contemplates life beyond the farm. Eighteen year old Josh labours alongside their father, a widowed man providing for his family through adversity.

Deliberating his education and applying for scholarships to boarding schools in Adelaide, Sandy is an academic, an intelligent and sensitive young man burdened by the loss of his mother, his humility and sensitivity is nurtured by his father. Tom Douglas is a wonderful character and although the narrative centralises Sandy and Josh, their father is a prominent and affirming parent. Their relationship although occasionally turbulent, is tender and compassionate. A wonderful illustration of a father encouraging his children to become emotionally expressive rather than the patriarchal dominance of masculinity.

Since her passing, Josh has become destructive and argumentative, preferring the company of Ryan despite his father's disapproval. Josh is a character of contrasts. Although he appears resilient, he carries the burden of believing his mother's accident is his responsibility, manifesting as destructive behaviour. We also experience the societal expectations placed upon young men, in particular emotional expectations. Josh is argumentative and irate, resenting Sandy's achievements. Underneath his stoic facade, Josh is a young man grieving for his mother alone.

The Australian agricultural community of The Mallee is atmospheric and Charlie Archbold is an exceptional debut author. A dedication to rural communities throughout our sunburnt country.

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Reading updates

  • Started reading
  • 8 December, 2017: Finished reading
  • 8 December, 2017: Reviewed