December Discussion – Tom Keneally

How did Corporal Hitler’s Luger from the First World War end up being the weapon that killed an IRA turncoat in Kempsey, New South Wales, in 1933?

When an affluent Kempsey matron spots a young Aboriginal boy who bears an uncanny resemblance to her husband, not only does she scream for divorce, attempt to take control of the child’s future and upend her comfortable life, but the whole town seems drawn into chaos.

A hero of the First World War has a fit at the cinema and is taken to a psychiatric ward in Sydney, his Irish farmhand is murdered, and a gay piano-playing veteran, quietly a friend to many in town, is implicated.

As Pageturner Paul says, Tom Keneally spins a yarn of historical, social and cultural fibres around Kempsey in 1933, a country town in a Depression year.  His novel Corporal Hitler’s Pistol is good on the trauma of war – The Great War and the Irish Civil War – and on the themes of power and prejudice.

Pageturner comments included:  “Didn’t feel good reading it, pleased when I finished it, too much on Irish history, quite surprised how much I enjoyed it, I wonder how much was real and how much was fiction, it touched on so many things – feminism, Aboriginals, religions, the Irish, Catholics, small towns, I liked it, easy to read, I had to check on the Irish history – it was confusing who was who, women couldn’t voice their opinion, there was a lot on homosexuality, there was also the damage caused by War, PTSD, I think Keneally really captures the small town mentality with everyone’s attitudes to the cow cockys, Aboriginals, women, power of policeman etc, it just goes to show nothing has changed, the character Chicken Dalton was very brave, it is a bit unbelievable,  he could have more of the times like the Depression, I really liked it and the language and slang and nicknames.

Scores out 5  (5 being the best rating) ranged from 3 to 5.

Earlier in the year the New South Wales Public Libraries Association hosted a talk by Tom Keneally. You can watch the chat here.

And here is a review by The Guardian.

Next meetings:

The first Daytime and Evening meetings of the New Year will feature chats about holidays reads – to inspire your next read on Wednesday 9 February 2022. See you then!

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