FRENCH, Jackie The Road to Gundagai A&R, 2013 436pp $19.99 pbk ISBN 9780732297220 SCIS 1627429
Jackie French continues her love affair with historical country Victoria and New South Wales. Her new book focuses on a family of circus performers who are working their way through the lower alpine districts and plains – locations which have formed the heartland of Australia’s early rural identity. The twist here is it follows a group of people who are misfits, charlatans and performers. They do their utmost to appear mysterious and exotic to a rural audience who are hungry for distraction from the depression, which eats away at the countryside.
Jackie French has created a fantastic group of characters who draw you in with a mix of pathos, intrigue and drama. It would be easy for her to lean on stereotype, but she has not done that. In a manner which is very similar to Peter Carey, she takes a well versed combination of characters and lifts the skirts to allow a view of something entirely different. Even the old Sergeant who is investigating the troupe has more to him than just the cranky old country copper trying to run the gypsies out of town. Fans of Jackie French’s previous historical novels will enjoy this continuation of the cycle but it also works very well as a stand alone novel. DM