First Book of 2007: "A Child's Book of True Crime"

I just learned how to change the HMTL of this blog, all by myself! I changed the LibraryThing widget (admittedly among the easiest of all possible changes to make, since LibraryThing has the code all prepared for you). Now instead of giving a selection of the books I recently read in 2006, it tells you what books I have read in 2007, a list that (as you can see) comes to a whopping total of one.

***Possible, if very vague, SPOILERS below***

Last night I finished Chloe Hooper's A Child's Book of True Crime, which was remarkable for its lucid interest in children's thought patterns and their unusual morality. A schoolteacher, Kate, on her first assignment out of university, moves to a small town in Tasmania that can't seem to escape its colonial roots. Kangaroos and wallabies litter the roads and are hunted for pet food, bridal parties take formal pictures in front of dilapidated penal colonies, and children play at being transported prisoners. When the novel opens, Kate is in the midst of an affair with the father of her favorite student, whose mother has written a true crime thriller about a murder that threw the town into chaos some 15 years earlier. The local vet, it seems, had been having an affair with his assistant, when one day his lover was found brutally slaughtered and his wife mysteriously disappeared. Hooper's novel has some striking insights about childhood, fear, and responsibility, but as her main character deteriorates in the last half of the book, so does the novel itself. "The Turn of the Screw" lurks unmentioned in the background of "A Child's Book of True Crime," but James's novella is infinitely more successful at winning our sympathies for its dubiously sane protagonist, and thus is also more fruitful in its narrative ambiguity. Hooper's novel seems, by contrast, to devolve into a sort of gothic chaos, a frenzy which only leaves us as alienated and disappointed in the protagonist as her prissy colleagues.

"A Child's Book of True Crime"
Chloe Hooper
(Australia, 2002)

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