Some books are just destined to find you and so it was with The Burial. Anne is the Kiwi of reading group 1 – or is it two? – and her daughter, Antonia, lives in Australia where she just happens to be a friend of Courtney Collins, the debut author of . . . The Burial.
Please, forgive my insouciance but when at, say, a party someone asks ‘And what do you do, Guy?’ I now try to avoid mentioning newbooks or The New Writer. It’s not that I am ashamed of what I do – far from it. But you would be amazed at how few Kevin Bacon style connections there are between little ol’ me and the most promising author in the world who has just published their first book and done it themselves, by damn.
I hasten to add that this isn’t the case with Anne. In fact, it’s true to say that both reading groups now accord me no particular significance because of the day job. They’re simply interested in what I thought of our book of choice and how it intersects with their opinions so the discussion has had ‘the male point of view’.
Traditionally, we end with books we’ve read that we think the others might enjoy individually or as a group read – a healthy way to sift for our forward programme. And Anne had thoroughly enjoyed The Burial, had emailed her daughter who in turn had put her in touch with Courtney herself.
Things had progressed and there was mention of a Skype conversation with the Antipodes, if other members found the book interesting. Jean snaffled it first and I’ve now read the story of Jessie, Jack Brown, Fitz and Sergeant Barlow and it is an absolute delight.
Jessie holds centre stage effortlessly, burying her daughter on the morning of her birth - slitting her throat! - to save her from a worse fate. But the child’s voice continues through the book adding a slightly surreal thread to more prosaic proceedings involving another murder, fleeing from a lynch mob and shining some light on the murky background of this woman. As the blurb has it, ‘by twenty-six . . . a circus rider, horse and cattle rustler and convict.’
More whimsically, the front cover quotes Warren Ellis (who he?) saying ‘Lyrical and delirious. Oozes a febrility that stays with you when it’s over.’ I’m a massive cynic when it comes to cover quotes but I’m with Warren on this one.