Friday, 31 March 2017

Book Review: Storyland by Catherine McKinnon

Title: Storyland
Author: Catherine McKinnon
Publisher: 4th Estate
Publication Date: 27 March 2017
Pages: 213
Format: eBook -EPUB
Genre: Literary Fiction/Historical
Source: ARC via NetGalley

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An ambitious, remarkable and moving novel about who we are: our past, present and future, and our connection to this land.

In 1796, a young cabin boy, Will Martin, goes on a voyage of discovery in the Tom Thumb with Matthew Flinders and Mr Bass: two men and a boy in a tiny boat on an exploratory journey south from Sydney Cove to the Illawarra, full of hope and dreams, daring and fearfulness. Set on the banks of Lake Illawarra and spanning four centuries, Storyland is a unique and compelling novel of people and place - which tells in essence the story of Australia.

Told in an unfurling narrative of interlinking stories, in a style reminiscent of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, McKinnon weaves together the stories of Will Martin together with the stories of four others: a desperate ex-convict, Hawker, who commits an act of terrible brutality; Lola, who in 1900 runs a dairy farm on the Illawarra with her brother and sister, when they come under suspicion for a crime they did not commit; Bel, a young girl who goes on a rafting adventure with her friends in 1998 and is unexpectedly caught up in violent events; and in 2033, Nada, who sees her world start to crumble apart. Intriguingly, all these characters are all connected - not only through the same land and water they inhabit over the decades, but also by tendrils of blood, history, memory and property... (Goodreads Synopsis)


Storyland is a hard book for me to rate; in the end, I have settled on three stars. I enjoyed the five narratives and their characters, but I didn't love them. I wasn't on the edge of my seat turning the pages; although, neither was it a slog. It was simply a middle-of-the-road read for me: enjoyable but not breathtaking. I think part of the problem is the use of the same narrative style as Cloud Atlas. In that work, it was bold, new and, therefore, a huge selling point. However, now it's been done, some of the shine has worn off. All that structure really accomplished in this case was to make me constantly compare this work to Cloud Atlas, and Storyland just doesn't have the same scope or captivating brilliance of Mitchell's earlier book.

That said, this is by no means a bad book, and I would highly recommend it to people who enjoyed Cloud Atlas and are looking for something else similar, and to those interested in historical fiction in an Australian setting. It's a pleasant read; it simply didn't blow me away as I'd hoped it would.

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