The Piper's Son was one of those audiobooks that I selected out of desperation, as the new children and teen offerings at my library have seemed very slim this past year (or I'd already read all the new ones we ordered). I'm kind of meh about author Melina Marchetta (ch sounds like k) -- really didn't like Jellicoe Road, sort of enjoyed Finnikin of the Rock (not enough for the 2012 sequel). And even though this book is identified as a "companion" to Saving Francesca, and yes ... I read that about two months ago. I think I liked that one best of all her books.
Tom Mackee (pronounced MEH-key) was one of the group of private-school friends formed in Saving Francesca, the one who always remained slightly apart, the bullying one. It's several years later, but he's drifted away from those friends -- mostly because he's mired in a deep substance-fueled depression at the death of his Uncle Joe two years ago in the July 7, 2005 transit bombings in London. The loss has affected his very close family as well -- his parents are separated and Tom hasn't seen or heard from his alcoholic father in more than a year.
After falling down drunk late one night and splitting his scalp open, Tom discovers that he's been evicted from his shared apartment and shows up on his Aunt Georgie's doorstep looking for a place to stay. Georgie's got her own problems -- aside from her dead and/or missing brothers, 42-year-old Georgie is carrying the child of her former lover. Upon learning of his infidelity six years ago (resulting in a child), Georgie split with Sam. Since Joe's death, she's been leaning on him for emotional support and more. But she's still not ready to allow him back into her life permanently.
The Piper's Son is the stories of Tom and Georgie and their struggles to come to terms with their losses, and re-form their families (related by blood or otherwise) again. For me, it was a big steaming pile of melodrama and by the end of it I was sick to death of all of them. Oy, the suffering! Oy, the long internal monologues about how bad they feel! It pretty much stood in the way of my appreciating Marchetta's vivid portrayal of a close-knit Sydney, Australia neighborhood and her spot-on characterization of Tom -- a young man trying to balance the influences of his edgy, near violent father and his kind, kind uncle.
Michael Finney narrates the book. His Australian accent was initially impenetrable to me, so I ended up listening to the first half of the first disc twice. Once my ear got attuned, though, it's just delightful to listen to that unique speech -- for some reason, I Love those Long, deLiciousLy sLurpy "L's." Finney does a nice job with characterizations as well, managing the large cast of characters with interest and slight distinctions so all sound completely natural. The dialogue flowed easily in his reading. And for a very emotion-driven story, Finney brings acting skills that help us hear the tears or laughter, or anger or sadness.
Unlike other (more widely read) bloggers, I have issues with a book that purports to be for teenagers that features a middle-aged woman as one of its protagonists. I found Tom's journey to be very teen-friendly (who that age doesn't think about their post-"uni" years?), but Georgie's seemed out of place. Oddly though, Georgie's relationship with Sam doesn't seem much different than Tom's post-adolescent yearnings for Tara. I also learned more about Georgie's sex life than Tom's, much to my horror. I kept flashing back to a memorable few sentences in Finnikin about a long-parted, well-into-middle-age couple loudly coupling.
My second novel in two weeks about families of the victims of terrorist acts, and an interesting contrast in ways of mourning (and ways of writing novels). I seem to be on a bit of a downer lately -- the last truly happy book I read (both eye and ear) was Goliath. I think I need some cheering up ... oh, the one that's currently in my ears is certainly happy. Not.
[There's a memorial to the victims of the July 7 bombings in London's Hyde Park. The photograph is a closeup of one of the 52 stainless-steel stelae, one for each of the dead. It was taken by David Hawgood as part of the geograph.org.uk project and was retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.
[I like the Australian cover of this book a lot!]
The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
Narrated by Michael Finney
Bolinda Audio, 2010 (published in the US by Brilliance Audio, 2011). 8:22