Review: From Alice with Love by Jo Dutton

 

Title: From Alice With Love

Author: Jo Dutton

Published: Allen & Unwin July 2013

Status: Read from July 02 to 04, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the Publisher}

My Thoughts:

From Alice With Love, Jo Dutton’s third novel, is both the story of a woman making a fresh start in life and love and an examination of the political and social issues of indigenous community management in the Northern Territory.

Drawn back to Alice Springs when her mother falls ill, Alicia, who is in the midst of an amicable divorce and unemployed, allows herself to be reabsorbed into her childhood community, which includes the Indigenous mob who considers her family. She is persuaded by her best friend, Lekisha and her ‘nana’, Magdelene to take on the challenging position of the lone teacher at the newly approved school at the Promised Land Mission for its children. This is how Alicia, who is in her mid thirties and wanting to start a family, develops a complicated relationship with Patrick, also a teacher.

I think it would be fair to say however that Alicia’s journey is both inseparable from, and overshadowed by, Dutton’s portrait of Indigenous issues and community in the Top End. From Alice with Love is a thought provoking, though skewed, perspective into the complex issues that trouble our country and defy simple resolution. Against the background of several significant events that affected Aboriginals including the National Apology (Sorry Day), Centerlink’s introduction of ‘income management’ and The ‘Little Children Are Sacred’ report (which highlighted the prevalence of sexual abuse in some Indigenous communities), the author tries to bring into focus the humanity, dignity and dreams of the Indigenous peoples with the emphasis of the narrative clearly on their connection to family and the land and on challenging the negative cultural stereotypes endemic in society.

While the descriptions of the unique Territory environment are evocative, I did find that the first person narrative, which is light on dialogue, sometimes took on the qualities of a lecture. I found the pace a slow, it is 100 pages in before the school is even mentioned, and nearly at the 200 page mark before Alicia teaches her first class.

Despite my admiration for Jo Dutton’s intention to ‘write from love’ and my general agreement with her political position, unfortunately From Alice With Love didn’t resonate with me as I had I expected it to. Ultimately, I felt the author’s reach was too ambitious and the story was overwhelmed and undermined by the myriad of issues Dutton introduced. However I don’t want my opinion to discourage anyone from reading From Alice With Love as I believe this book has the potential to both inform and enlighten readers.

Available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin I Boomerang Books I Booktopia I Amazon Kindle

via Booko

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Julie @ Knitting and Sundries
    Jul 08, 2013 @ 23:29:02

    I’m big on social issues myself, but in a fictionalized novel, sometimes too much creeps in and overwhelms the story. That it what it sounds like here. Thanks for the review!

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  2. Trackback: July 2013 Roundup: Diversity | Australian Women Writers Challenge

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