by Bryce Courtenay
I've mentioned this author several times on my blog before, and for a long time he certainly was my favourite author (he isn't number 1 anymore but he's still up near the top). I have to credit him with a lot, he's the author who introduced me to the monstrously long novel, to "faction" (the inclusion of real facts into a primarily fictional novel) and of the importance of storytelling.
He is a fascinating man who has been through enough for a dozen different lifetimes and if you have read his book The Power of One you essentially know his past (albeit with some embellishment). Courtenay was born in South Africa and just as the character Peekay from The Power of One Courtenay was moved from a loving home amongst his family and lovable African friends to a boarding school where he felt completely out of sorts. He truly did meet a German music teacher named Doc who taught him all of the important lessons even the most prestigious of schools can never get right and eventually he was exiled from South Africa because of his creation of an educational class for Africans in his school's hall, which was deemed both a communist and subversive act.
South Africa's loss was Australia's gain, and he has long been regarded one of Australia's most popular authors. His novels are often long and centre on a group (usually a family) of characters rather than just one and they infuse historically accurate facts with a wonderful fictional tale.
I thought it was important to tell you his history because The Night Country is essentially one chapter out of his amazing life. It is only 86 pages long, double spaced with a fairly large font and therefore almost impossible not to read it one sitting but don't take that as an indication that the story is somehow less than. Those 86 pages are some of the most moving, challenging, heartbreaking and awe-inspiring pages I've ever read. Taking place at the tail end of the Great Depression The Night Country follows Courtenay and his sister's move to a farm after his mother becomes sick. It is during his stay at this farm that he comes face to face with the ugliness of racism that was so prevalent in South Africa at the first time. The imagery that Courtenay creates in this book in breathtaking and it is one of the few stories that will truly stay with you for as long as you live.