Rarely does a book come along that articulates Australia so wonderfully, and very rarely does it come from the mouth of a galah.
There’s a bit in the 1997 political satire film Wag the Dog where Dustin Hoffman’s character, the ego-maniacal film producer modelled after Robert Evans, rants about how underappreciated his genius is. “They told me I couldn’t remake Moby Dick from the point of view of the whale — $450 million domestic. I’m not even talking about the video. I made this lame turkey fly. I did it — pure Hollywood.”
So, here’s a story about the moon landing (among other things) told from the point of view of a galah in a small town in northern Western Australia, who receives direct messages from a local satellite dish, as well as the innermost thoughts of some of the key players in the town, and in as much, the story.
Now, I’m not 100% on board with the idea of this thing getting adapted and doing $450million domestic, but the same initial thought crossed my mind. You’d have to be crazy to think that you could tell a story – this story – from the point of view of a galah. And yet, Tracy Sorensen somehow manages to pull it off.
Once you get past the high concept of the book’s narrator, Sorensen’s writing and characterisiations have a uniquely Australian flavour to them, and the book uses the notion of this key event in modern history as the springboard for an analysis of the lives of people in the fictional town of Port Badminton, WA.
There’s a lot to like about this book; there is a whimsical quality to the structure and characters, but that is counter-balanced by the heft of the drama involving the multiple human characters which inhabit the word in the immediate physical and cerebral environment of the titular galah (and right there is a sentence I never thought I’d write).
It’s great when authors go out on the proverbial limb and take risks – this novel is a high-concept exercise in narrative voice which pays off, thanks in great part to Sorensen’s gifts with language and dialogue. It has a dream-like quality at times, and as a fellow Australian it has that indescribable national identity to it which cannot be better expressed by it’s essential “feel”. The book “feels” Australian.