Blood and Bone won Seizure’s Viva La Novella Prize and was published by Xoum in 2014. It has been variously described as a work of Australian Gothic literature, as experimental historical fiction, and as “a book that actively resists easy categorisation.”
Blood and Bone fulfils two objectives: shedding light on a dark past, and exploring intellectual and aesthetic problems that the writing of such a story might create. … [T]he tale is made seamless by a tight structure and a hypnotic style that seems to owe something to the work of Gerald Murnane.
What sort of a book is it? Is it a Gerald Murnane-Cormac McCarthy lovechild? It’s a little bit that, although it seems impolite to pigeonhole a writer in such a way; really, every author exists in his or her own beautiful orbit.
This book sits at the very peak of Australian literature… Australians need to celebrate such talent [and] laud these brave and interesting literary voices… This may well be the finest contemporary novel by an Australian author about Australia.
…a powerful and brutal little book…
…highly impactful, even shocking… an important novel.
Often I find myself wanting for words when I set out to say things about Rowan Scrymgeour. A dozen discarded notebooks contain the wreckage of earlier efforts, and fragments scribbled on receipts and napkins litter my desk like shrapnel from a blast. The problem is not that words escape me altogether. The problem is that they burst into babble the moment I try to commit them to the page. It’s as if the soul of Scrymgeour himself refuses to abide containment in words and thwarts all my efforts to concentrate him into some expressible form. But I don’t mean to begin with a writer’s complaint so much as a concession to the inadequacy of writing. Every last word that follows from here is a word I have tortured out of myself. If what I have written sometimes warbles towards the inarticulate, that is the price exacted by torture and the price of articulating Scrymgeour at all.
The publisher’s blurb calls Blood and Bone “the tale of a man haunted by the violent truths of his ancestry. Through his attempt to document the remarkable childhood of his great-aunt Abigail, we are thrown into life at the Whangie, an austere outpost at the colonial frontier. With the death of her mother, eleven-year-old Abigail must learn to fend for herself against the cruel stewardship of her father. At war with the local Aboriginals and intent on staking his claim on the land at any cost, what occurs between the two is a stunning powerplay that exposes the limits of the human imagination. Inhabiting the speculative peripheries of the historical record, Blood and Bone is an uncompromising exploration of Australia’s dark history and its legacy today.” Given the way it grapples with the inadequacies and limitations of the effort to imagine a life lived more than a century ago, I think of Blood and Bone as a record of literary failure under the guise of historical portraiture, in the vein of Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project or Laurent Binet’s HHhH.
My research notes for Blood and Bone can be found at Necessary Fiction.
You can find the cover in the sidebar to the right, as well as links to places where you can purchase the book in both paperback and ebook formats. You can also read the first chapter of Blood and Bone as a free PDF download, and if you’d like to review the book please email me at danieldaviswood [at] gmail [dot] com to request a review copy.