I started reading Montebello back in November last year with great expectations.
I had read Shark Net (2000) when it first came out and adored it from start to finish. It was a memoir of Drewe's childhood in Western Australian during the time that Perth was terrorised by a serial killer, Eric Cooke.
The lives of these two men crisscrossed at various times which allowed Drewe artistic licence to weave his life story with that of Cooke's. The story was told with that dry, Aussie humour we're all familiar with. And although, a lot of the stories were highly personal, they contained the universal themes of love and belonging and identity that we all connect to.
I remember at the time being particular taken by Drewe's stories of his father as the 'company man'. His dad was a Dunlop man. My dad was a Commonwealth Bank man; like Drewe, we also had a houseful of company product. From 'get with the strength' money boxes, pens and books to t-towels and soft cloths for dad's bowls bag.
We participated in festival parades with blow up elephants and helped to fill school fete show bags with rulers, pencils and notepaper all emblazoned with the company logo. Drewe's stories of Dunlop shoes, ashtrays, pens etc decorating his childhood home made me laugh out loud.
Drewe also painted a picture of suburban West Australia that was just as evocative, visceral and familiar as Tim Winton's WA.
The ABC TV drama that evolved from this book a few years later focused more heavily on Cooke's story than Drewe's, but reminded me again just how much I enjoyed Drewe's telling of this story.
I was expecting a similar treatment in Montebello, with the obvious exception being this time his personal narrative would be wrapped around the detonating of three bombs by the British in the 1950's off the WA coast.
There were moments when this book grabbed my attention.
Drewe's stories of early Byron Bay whaling triggered a conversation with my dad who grew up in that area and his memories of the whaling. And I enjoyed hearing about Montebello, where it is, what it looks like, what's happening there now etc, but there wasn't enough of this stuff to keep me truly engaged.
Drewe kept meandering off into personal territory that read like a diary entry. By the time we got to his third marriage I wasn't sure if this simply wasn't an exercise that he was doing at the behest of a marriage guidance counsellor!
In Montebello, the remembering seemed too personal somehow. Perhaps it was all still too raw and unprocessed for Drewe which made it hard for a universal message to shine through. And the dry humour I remembered from Shark Net also seemed to be missing.
Friday Flashback hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies is a new meme that encourages us to remember a book we read over 5 years ago that is still in print and that we haven't blogged about previously. Shark Net is published by Penguin Australia and I highly recommend you hunt down a copy.