Sunday, April 27, 2008
Book Review: THE CUSTODIANS
"We're the innocence they have lost. Historyless is how they imagine us and happy for being that way. If only they knew. The only reason we exist is because of fucking history!"
Nicholas Jose's The Custodians is an interesting novel about the development and discovery of a national identity.
Through this novel Jose asks the question: Is there one Australian national identity, or are there many?
The reader is introduced to a number of characters from a variety of backgrounds: the indigenous, the stolen generation, the refugee immigrant, the colonialist decendent, the politician, the revolutionist, the religious.
Through his characters, who consistently cross each others' life paths, Jose is saying that despite racial, religious or political difference, in being Australian their identity is one and the same. That identity is tied to the Australian continent itself, forty thousand years of it and beyond.
Despite the novel being well-written and relatively easy to read, I found at times that Jose cut to and from characters and settings a little too often, which made it difficult to predict where the story was going. However, although frustrating at time, this inability to predict just made me more determined to find out how the story would end.
I also found some characters to be underdeveloped and a little hollow - that the reader is only learning their outer-shell and their deeper meaning is kept secret. This could have been deliberate, or simply a consequence of having too many characters.
However, overall an enjoyable and interesting read that I would recommend, to Australians and non-Australians alike.