"A fresh and subversive take on a genre traditionally owned by male leviathans."New York Times Book Review, *Editors' Choice*
"Heart-warming and hilarious."Jennifer Niven, author of All the Bright Places
"Abook to never forget."Markus Zusak,author of The Book Thief
An impassioned, charming, and hilarious debut novel about a young woman's coming-of-age, during one of the harshest whaling seasons in the history of New South Wales.
1908: It's the year that proves to be life-changing for our teenage narrator, Mary Davidson, tasked with providing support to her father's boisterous whaling crews while caring for five brothers and sisters in the wake of their mother's death. But when the handsome John Beck-a former Methodist preacher turned novice whaler with a mysterious past-arrives at the Davidson's door pleading to join her father's crews, suddenly Mary's world is upended.
As her family struggles to survive the scarcity of whales and the vagaries of weather, and as she navigates sibling rivalries and an all-consuming first love for the newcomer John, nineteen-year-old Mary will soon discover a darker side to these men who hunt the seas, and the truth of her place among them.
Swinging from Mary's own hopes and disappointments to the challenges that have beset her family's whaling operation, RUSH OH! is an enchanting blend of fact and fiction that's as much the story of its gutsy narrator's coming-of-age as it is the celebration of an extraordinary episode in history.
Shirley Barrett is best known for her work as a screenwriter and director. Her film Love Serenade won the Caméra d'Or for best first feature at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996. In 2010, the script for her film South Solitary won the Queensland Premier's Prize and the West Australian Premier's Prize. Rush Oh! is her first novel. She lives in Sydney, Australia.
Rush Oh! 4.5 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Rush Oh! is the first novel by Australian screenwriter, director and author, Shirley Barrett. it is based on the life of Eden whaler, George “Fearless” Davidson, although Barrett freely admits to taking liberties with known facts. Narrated by his nineteen-year-old daughter, Mary, it tells of the events of the 1908 whaling season in Twofold Bay, giving the reader a fairly comprehensive taste of the life of a whaler in the early twentieth century.
As the eldest daughter of the widower, Mary is charged with taking care of her father, her Uncle Aleck and her five siblings, including the rather wilful sixteen-year-old Louisa, as well as providing meals for his whaling crew of five white men and five aboriginals. But as a young woman, Mary can’t help her own natural inclinations and her attraction to a newly arrived crew member, an ex-Methodist-minister, John Beck. But perhaps John is not quite all he seems.
As Mary deals with the challenges posed by a poor whaling season, Louisa’s mercurial moods and her hopes for her own future, she finds herself in the unenviable position of possibly having done irredeemable damage to her family's only means of support.
That Barrett has done extensive research is apparent on every page, as the reader learns a multitude of interesting facts about the whaling industry, about the behaviour of whales and killer whales, and the relationship between the indigenous people and killer whales.
Barrett uses some marvellous descriptive prose: “My brother raised his harpoon with trembling hands. The notion of plunging such an implement into this mountain of a whale suddenly seemed ludicrous, like sticking a hatpin into an elephant….. he tossed his harpoon, but in his panicked state, it fell short and landed in the water with a dispiriting slap.” Some of Mary’s artwork is delightfully rendered by Matt Canning’s illustrations.
As well as conveying the brutality and desperation that whaling entails, Barrett manages to include plenty of humour (the trip to Boyd Tower by the family, horse, cow and two dogs, one of which sits on the lovingly-made Madeira cake when the whole troupe is menaced by a broody magpie, being just one example), heartache (the loss of a brother, the estrangements within the family) and hope (Mary's longstanding faith in John Beck, and in her reunion with her sister).
While the bulk of the narrative comprises Mary’s memories of 1908, the story is told from the more distant perspective of the now middle-aged Mary, living with her married sister in Ryde, and the penultimate chapter touches on the aftermath of that dramatic year, providing some resolution of questions unanswered. From something that started out as a screenplay, Barrett has created a marvellous debut novel.
More than 1 year ago
I received a free paperback edition of this historical novel on February 9, 2017 from Goodreads, Shirley Barrett and Back Bay Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, for sharing your hard work with me!
And this is an excellent historical novel, one I happy to refer to friends and family. Ms. Barrett covers the New South Wales whaling business throughly from 1908 through to it's end, with the diminishing market for whale oil and corset stays across the world reduces the market. Thus this the last generation of NSW whalers. And that sounds dull as dishwater. This novel is not - we grow up with Mary as she helps raise her five younger motherless siblings, feeds the boat crew numbering 12 or more, and stands in as teacher and housemaid, while keeping the peace - and falling in love. There is much humor and joy and pathos involved, and life identified. It is a novel I enjoyed cover to cover, and will read again.
More than 1 year ago
Humorous and historical! Excellent! This is the best book I have read - all year! Guys and gals will love this! The novel includes humorous historical information about whaling and killer whales, funny and 'funny sad' romances, humorous family tales, excellent and witty dialogue, and more. Based on actual events and has a great follow up at the end about the facts in the novel. Illustrations are neat as well! I wish more books were as amusing as this one! Definitely will look for the author's next book. This book should win an award. This book deserves A+++++
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