Monday, August 8, 2011

The Roving Party

It hasn't taken me this long since reading Catch-22 to read my next novel ... I've been really busy studying and working, and taking a quick trip to Brisbane, and then another quick trip to Wangaratta. So, please forgive me for not absorbing books at my usual rate.
   This year's winner of the Vogel Literary Award was 'The Roving Party' by Rohan Wilson. It was a worthy recipient.
   The language is quite simple, the dialogue is limited, and so is the character development. The punctuation is also not what I usually like - I like to know when someone is talking, not have to reread a sentence half-way through when I realise that what I'm reading is someone's voice. The description is not what most modern novels use, yet the images were vivid in my mind.

   The story itself is quite a gruesome theme, though the roving party didn't kill as many aboriginals as I anticipated. The attitude of that error is also quite starkly portrayed on a number of occasions, as it should be to make it shockingly realistic, with statements such as 'you can't murder a black any more than you can murder a cat'.
   I began by wondering why Black Bill was hunting his own kind. There were mentions of justice, but it's not clear what the aboriginal witch/headman did to Bill. Towards the end of the novel, Bill clearly blames his newborn son's malformation and death on a curse of the headman. Although it's not apparent what started Bill's hatred for his kinsman.
   Bill was brought up in a white household, with white ways, but was never fully accepted as a whiteman because of his colour. He seems to have had to work that much harder, and be that much more tough and ruthless to prove himself. By the time we come across him, as a member of the roving party, he has formed himself a formidable reputation. But he is an outcast of both races.
   When I gave up trying to figure Bill out, I took a step back and realised that the story is more about what lengths men will go to. It's about the good and bad in men, and how ugly men can be to each other. Ultimately, Bill and the headman respected each other and understood each. They could have killed each other, but they didn't. Bill could have shot the headman, but he fought him. The headman could have killed Bill, but he saw Bill for the grieving father that he was.
   The end of the novel moved away from the roving party, and Bill took up his own vendetta. We never return to the roving party, and Bill seems to have isolated himself even more from both races by the end of the story. He is further away from the white man, yet he has killed so many aboriginals that they won't accept him.
   He can hopefully find some kind of peace.

No comments:

Post a Comment