This is my first Alex Miller.
I know! How did that happen?
I've been meaning to read his others books Autumn Laing, Lovesong &; Journey to the Stone Country in particular.
And although there were some flaws in Coal Creek; the writing, the story, the characters and the sense of place were so evocative that I was left with the desire to read Miller's earlier works to see what else he can do.
Coal Creek is very Queensland. The sights, sounds and smells of 'stone country' Queensland jump out of the page at you.
"It was hard country and the people in it was hard but good in their hearts and ready to share what little they ever had with each other."
The main character, Bobby Blue, is a likeable, taciturn, hard-working young man caught up in an intricate web of lies, honour and loyalty. His voice carries the story. His words get under your skin.
My main concern with the story is how long it took to unfold, or unravel as the case may be (you will have to read it to see what I mean by that!)
I also felt that Miller used the 'I wont tell you this now, but in the right time' device too many times - for example
"I see it now, but at the time I brushed it aside..."
and "I only come to that understanding later on."
and "as if I was told by it of the terrible things ahead."
and "but I did not know that until later."
to name just a few!
I understand that in a reflective narrative there will be a lot of 'I remember when's' and 'with hindsight I would have done things differently', but by the end of Coal Creek it had become my own little personal mission to note every single time Miller used this technique.
Despite this though, I loved Bobby Blue's story. I wanted to know what happened to him. I cared for him deeply.
Apparently some of the characters in Coal Creek have already appeared in two of Miller's earlier works, Watching the Climbers on the Mountain and The Tivvington Nott. My curiosity is now aroused...I will have to add these to my TBR pile as well!
If you'd like to know more from Alex Miller himself, about this story, here's a youtube link with him chatting to Caroline Baum.