Floundering by Romy Ash

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Floundering by Romy Ash

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Not just another story centred on children struggling in a dysfunctional family but one that's beautifully written, and deserves to be read. Romy has the balance just right - more compelling than depressing, but that doesn't mean it's not upsetting.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: January 2014
Publisher: Text Publishing Company
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1921922084

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Loretta collects her boys Jordy and Tom from school as if it's the most normal thing in the world, but it's not; not for them anyway. Jordy and Tom have been living with their grandparents after being abandoned by this woman who refuses to be called 'Mum'. As they get further from their eastern Australian home it remains an adventure for Tom but Jordy's more sullen. Once they arrive at their ultimate destination - a ramshackle caravan park - Tom begins to understand why but not before both lads realise that their worries are just beginning.

We may be forgiven for assuming that Australian author Romy Ash has chosen a fictionalised misery memoir for her debut novel. We may be forgiven but that still makes us totally wrong; there's so much more to this classy, intricately woven tale and the Miles Franklin Literary Award panel have agreed enough to shortlist it.

We spend this journey (both one of mileage and experiences) looking through young Tom's eyes, his voice consistently that of a young lad throughout. Tom notices things but doesn't always elaborate or clarify which may seem like a plot hole at first but it's not. If we think about how unrealistic it would seem to expect a child to explain or extrapolate on things that they didn't fully understand, then holes become a sign of authenticity rather than an error.

During excitement, twists and disappointment Tom has the innocence and unjaded sense of adventure lacking in his brother who, we assume, remembers his mother's fractured promises from the past with deeper clarity.

Despite Jordy's reservations and the necessity for him to become the adult sometimes, the lads both love Loretta, someone whom Romy handles well. As we realise what's happening to the boys it would be easy for us to view their mother with total hatred but the author ensures we see the dichotomy. Loretta loves her boys but her demons demand greater devotion but she loves her boys... Thus we witness a cycle that doesn't do any of them any good.

In this way the novel unfolds simply without flinching, making us more than able to extrapolate the possible dangers and consequences for ourselves. This is especially true when they reach Loretta's idea of a safe haven - the holiday park and her parents' abandoned caravan. Here Jordy is forced to grow up but the lads still grab moments of a childhood that's fast slipping from their grasp, again showing us a tragic contrast.

Don't be put off though; this is a compelling read rather than a depressing one. We become very fond of the boys, and smile at Tom's childish exuberance. (After all, if a designated thing happens by the time he counts to 100 each time, all will be well.)

Indeed, this is more than a misery memoir: it's a tribute to Tom and Jordys everywhere while also being a reminder that some parents aren't intentionally disastrous at parenting. They just need more help than others, once they've put their demons far enough aside to realise for themselves.

We'd like to express our gratitude to Text Publishing Company for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: If this appeals then there are some great child-voiced novels aimed grown-ups around at the moment, Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman and Hinterland by Caroline Brothers being just two.

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Buy Floundering by Romy Ash at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Floundering by Romy Ash at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Floundering by Romy Ash at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Floundering by Romy Ash at Amazon.com.


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