Here’s the good wood on GOODWOOD. It’s good.
Holly Throsby’s debut novel, GOODWOOD, is a lyrical, rolling ballad of a small country town hit with a one/two punch of grief and of a one/two punch of burgeoning sexuality for the story’s narrator, seventeen year old, Jean Brown.
Set in 1992, the disappearance of two locals from the small town of Goodwood are harbingers of the disappearance of an era, before mandatory mobile phone use, social media and maniac serial killers burying backpackers in Belanglo.
Rosie White is the first to vanish, seemingly into thin air, followed by the burg’s butcher, Bart, believed to be boating but never returning, believed drowned, body undiscovered.
“After that, in a small town like Goodwood, where we had what Nan called, ‘ a high density of acquaintanceship’, everything stopped…hope dwindled like an unstoked fire. And before too long the grief crawled in.”
Before the plot thickened into a double vanishing act, Jean, walking her bitch, Backflip, discovers a stash of cash in the hollow of a tree trunk, a small fortune secreted and steeped in its own stew of secrets, part and parcel perhaps of the baffling evanescence.
The stash also vanishes, in its place, a toy horse, an equine effigy that adds a layer to the mystery.
There is much to admire in Throsby’s writing; the plotting, the pacing, the characters, and the sense of place. The characters are rich and myriad, from family and friends, neighbours, shopkeepers and barflies. All are beautifully realised, even when animated for a catalyst cameo:
‘Doe Murray. There was a member of the Murray family, one who Goodwood rarely saw. A person who had become more like a rumour than a human being. Doe Murray. She’d receded like water after a flood and let herself seep into the boards of the weatherboard house.’ Her statement to the charismatic local cop, Mac, is succinctly, piscatorial precise: There was something fishy about her husbands fishing trip. “I may have my problems but I can put two and two together. I know how to get four. Four is fishy.”
There is a harmonising narrative style to GOODWOOD that reflects the author’s prowess as a songwriter. Refrain and reprise are used brilliantly in a composition that’s rich in rhythm with a melodic tone conceived from a keen imagination, an observant eye and a fine ear for idiom and the colloquial.
You’d be dumb as a box of hair not to get a copy of GOODWOOD. It deserves the high density of acquaintanceship it demands. Just don’t rush it, it’s not be rushed.
GOODWOOD by Holly Throsby is published by Allen & Unwin.