Martha lives in small-town NSW a couple of decades ago. Her home life is toxic, school is uninteresting and she’s desperate to leave town so her life can start. Enter the Bookers; glamorous new comers who sweep Martha up and add sparks to the dreary endlessness of summer holidays. The Booker are stylish, seductive and usually drunk. Lunches, shopping and parties quickly turn into something more as Mr Booker find himself unable to resist the temptation to be the life-changing event Martha has been waiting for.
Me and Mr Booker is not a romantic or sugar-coated coming of age story. It’s confronting and honest, hopeless and empathetic. It’s also sexy, if you ignore the borderline illegality of the central relationship. There are balls, Woolworths underpants and motel rooms. Right from chapter one you know what you’re in for, and I had to re-read the end of the chapter a couple of times because I just wasn’t expecting it.
Me and Mr Booker is primarily a coming of age story but it is also about relationships. It’s about the relationships you find yourself in almost as if lead by fate; or being trapped in a relationship because you can see no way out or because of the hold one person can have over another. It’s about possession, wanting what we can’t have and the people that make or break our lives.
What I loved about this book is that I could entirely relate to the central relationship. I was not a sexually precocious, charred and bored 16 year old but as you follow the passage of the relationship; the seduction, the snatched moments, the intoxicating illicitness of the affair, you completely understood why and how Marsha acts as she does. There are so many every-life moments that the reader can related to. You never stop to wonder why it happens; you know perfectly well why it happens and it all feels so inevitable.
There is more than a ring of Lolita in this novel. Though Mr Booker may be take the lead in the physical seduction, Martha is more than aware of the effect she has on the men in her town and does not at any moment question the seduction or make a move to halt what is happening. One character desperate to be older with a life to lead, one character intoxicated by youth and the endless possibilities being young affords.
Me and Mr Booker is successful screenwriter Cory Taylor’s debut novel and an incredible first novel it is too. I found I had to make myself put Mr and Mr Booker down, otherwise I was liable to finish it within hours. The pacing is fantastic, the jumps and pauses perfect. Each character is desperately fallible and utterly believable. You understand them, even if you want to give some of them a vicious slap across the chops. You feel at home in small-town Australia with its boredom and dust.
Me and Mr Booker is an engaging well-written novel and therefore a delight.
Here is a proper review on ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club.