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Book Title: What Happen Then, Mr Bones?|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 329 KB
City - Country: No data
The author of the book: Charlotte Randall
Edition: Penguin Books
Date of issue: January 1st 2004
ISBN 13: 9780143019176
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Reader ratings: 3.3
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Charlotte Randall is one of the more inventive writers (I find myself drawn back time and again), and in this case she does not disappoint – not that it quite grabbed me in the way Within the Kiss did (but then that is one of the more engaging sport themed novels so it also has work-related uses). In this case, a sprawling family tale, she has done one of at least four things (it is a recurring aspect of Randall’s work for me that my readings are always open and multiple).
First, this might an inventive comment on writing history – that is, in constructing a narrative that begins with its conclusion she has given us an example of history being written backwards (and in this she parallels conceptually but not structurally Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride, although she is not the first to use the written-backwards device, she does it better than many). Second, and staying with the history writing theme, she continues her challenge to New Zealand-based authors to get past the limits of their geographical and temporal limits of nation, to account for characters’ mobility and pre-settlement Britishness, Third, this is a subtle family narrative that reminds us how we are shaped by our family stories, where we see events and family myths played out over 350 years. But I think, fourth, in the end it is a shaggy dog story that explains a 2002 Petone (on the north side of Wellington Harbour, for those whose knowledge of urban NZ is limited) death-by-suicide after medical misdiagnosis by citing a death-by-hanging in London in 1651.
Being a Charlotte Randall book, though, there a bit of the grotesque and bizarrely macabre about all this – and the 1651 death-by-hanging revives (or is resurrected) on the autopsy table two days later. There is more of the grotesque in many of the characters – their social awkwardness, their obsession with disease and death (in the family tradition, the result of the death-and-resurrection) and for the most part in their being generally unlikeable. There is also the humorously macabre – some minor character deaths are brilliantly absurd (watch put for Jean-Paul’s) – and the simply macabre sense that the book begins and ends with hangings – one self-inflicted and successful, one state-inflicted and unsuccessful (and in writing that there is no spoiler) – the latter is part of the back-cover blurb, the former is over by page 2.
It is also packed with moments of irony, although we may not recognise them until much later in the story and therefore by an awareness of what came before – names repeat in characters who find themselves in similar but different roles, characters that should be close meet briefly and have no idea of their connections, others whose fates should be different find themselves in close to same situation but only we know. Randall is a crafty (in both sense of the word – craft-like and slightly devious) and cunning writer who demands her readers pay attention, and rewards us when we do.
One to savour, and remember, it is a shaggy dog story.
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Read information about the authorCharlotte Randall is the award-winning author of five novels. Her first, Dead Sea Fruit, won the South East Asian/South Pacific section of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best first book and the Reed Fiction Award in 1995. Her much-praised second novel, The Curative, was join runner-up for the Deutz Medal for fiction at the 2001 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. What Happen Then, Mr Bones? (2004) and The Crocus Hour (2008) were finalists for the same award.
Randall was born and raised in Dunedin, New Zealand and now lives in Christchurch with her husband and children.
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