BOOK REVIEW: To the Highlands (Jon Doust, Fremantle Press)

What is a man and how does a boy become one? Jack Muir was searching for the answers to these questions in Boy on a Wire, the first book in Jon Doust’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age trilogy, set in an exclusive boys’ boarding school in 1960s Perth, which was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. Readers return to Jack’s story in To the Highlands. It’s 1968—a year of global revolution. Jack still has his sense of humour, he’s finished school and he’s off to work in ‘the islands’ for the Colonial Bank of Australia. Obsessed with losing his virginity, desperate for love but only just discovering lust, and consumed by inexplicable rage and a desire for revenge, Jack is initiated into the expat lifestyle and it swallows him whole. There are more big issues in this book, including racism, misogyny, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, the entitlements of white colonialism and the emerging political independence of an island nation. Named after Randolph Stow’s 1958 Miles Franklin winner To the Islands, this is a compelling, unsettling and confronting sequel to Boy on a Wire. There is a relentless rawness to this book that makes its moments of tenderness hit their mark even more keenly.Paula Grunseit is a freelance journalist, editor and reviewer. This review first appeared in the June/July issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.


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