August by Bernard Beckett, Text Publishing, RRP $30, ISBN 9781921758041, Available now.
How is it possible that Bernard Beckett has utterly passed me by? How embarrassing. How can I call myself BookieMonster?
Little moment of self-flagellation aside, I’m guessing the answer is because Beckett has so far mostly written for children and young adults, and I haven’t been a huge reader of children and young adult books up until recently – but, still, publicity anyone? The man’s been writing for over ten years – have I noticed?
Well, I’m making up for it now because August is an attention-demanding impressive novel. It’s not without its flaws but only because it reaches so high, tries to do something so truly remarkable.
August starts with a crash – a car cartwheels off a road, maybe off a cliff – we don’t really know. What we do know is there are two people inside it, and as it comes to a halt it seems the two occupants have been badly injured. They’re in pain and they don’t know if anyone’s going to come looking for them.
But who are they? And so Beckett’s story starts – the story of Tristan and Grace, two people who don’t know each other and yet do know each other. I’m not going to discuss the plot specifics much more because so much of the enjoyment of reading August is in the unfolding of the story.
In addition to the compelling story August is also a philosophical exploration of the nature of the free will, and there is some serious philosophical noodling going on here (yes, noodling, just because I can appreciate serious philosophy doesn’ t mean I can write seriously about it). This does lead to one of the aforementioned flaws – serious philosophical noodling isn’t always compatible with the forward motion of the plot. August has such momentum though that it only falls flat on a few occasions (part of its remarkability).
Making a totally new discovery (even if it turns out to be not so new to everyone else) of a fantastic book or author is one of the true total joy sof reading. All in all – a highly recommended book. Your brain will be engaged in more ways then one.