Review: The Burial by Courtney Collins

Title: The Burial

Author: Courtney Collins

Published: Allen and Unwin September 2012

Synopsis: It is the dawn of the twentieth century in Australia and a woman has done an unspeakable thing. Twenty-two-year-old Jessie has served a two-year sentence for horse rustling. As a condition of her release she is apprenticed to Fitzgerald ‘Fitz’ Henry, who wants a woman to allay his loneliness in a valley populated by embittered ex-soldiers. Fitz wastes no time in blackmailing Jessie and involving her in his business of horse rustling and cattle duffing. When Fitz is wounded in an accident he hires Aboriginal stockman, Jack Brown, to steal horses with Jessie. Soon both Jack Brown and Jessie are struggling against the oppressive and deadening grip of Fitz. One catastrophic night turns Jessie’s life on its head and she must flee for her life. From her lonely outpost, the mountains beckon as a place to escape. First she must bury the evidence. But how do you bury the evidence when the evidence is part of yourself? Listen to an excerpt

Status: Read from October 12 to 13, 2012 — I own a copy  {Courtesy Allen & Unwin)

My Thoughts:

The Burial is a poetic, reimagined tribute to the extraordinary life of legendary Australian ‘lady bushranger’, Jessie Hickman. Set in the 1920’s, as Jessie flees the law after murdering her brutal husband, this is a brooding novel narrated by Jessie’s dead newborn child, whose spirit remains tethered to her mother.

I admire the lyrical nature of this novel with it’s spare yet evocative phrasing. Collins paints incredible scenes, Jessie lying bleeding by the river barely conscious, the menace and beauty of the landscape of the Widden Ranges and the idyllic camp high in the mountains, home to a group of desperate children. Yet I must admit the narrative style is not one I am entirely comfortable with. As an omniscient observer, accompanying the narrator, there is a distance created that for me blunts the connection with the characters, even though I appreciate that it is a technique that allows Collins to move in and out of past and present to reveal Jessie’s genesis.

While The Burial is dark and melancholic, dwelling on loss and death, it also celebrates the triumph of survival against all odds. Jessie refuses to let go, refuses to give up, no matter the sacrifice and despite being dogged by ghosts, both living and dead. Her bravery and her determination is laudable and her trials unimaginable as she searches for grace and freedom.

Gritty yet glorious, The Burial is an impressive debut. Collins has revealed an extraordinary voice sure to be embraced by the literati.

Available to Purchase

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9 thoughts on “Review: The Burial by Courtney Collins

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve been following reviews of this book with interest because I can’t decide if I want to buy it or not. I don’t get as much reading time as I’d like these days and I tend to be a bit choosy. But the writing sounds beautiful and the technique something a bit different, so I might have to give it a whirl. Definitely intrigued!


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