Saturday, November 24, 2012

RIP Bryce Courtenay, an amazing author

The African/Australia author Bryce Courtenay passed away yesterday at the age of 79. There have been many, many authors who have captured my mind and my imagination, but Bryce Courtenay was the first author to really captivate me as an Australian. Although several of his books (and perhaps his most famous) take place in his home country of South Africa, the books set in Australia were game-changing. They showed a side of Australia that I never saw growing up in the cities and suburbs, and that was definitely absent from Home and Away and Neighbours, yet they felt unmistakably Australian. I recognised the yearning, the love of the outdoors, the bigger than life hopes and aspirations  They were things that spoke to me, as an Australian, in such a primal way that I'm having trouble putting them into words. He told the story of the average Australian, and of the average Australian family. He told their stories so well, that some of his characters feel more real to me than people I grew up with. He made me fall in love with boxing. Or at least, in literature he made me fall in love with boxing and recognise the poetry and beauty that exists within it, although I've never managed to find that in an actual game of boxing. He made me want to go to Africa, and to learn more about plants. He opened my eyes to the "secret" atrocities perpetrated on Australian soldiers in Sandakan, something that was hushed up for many years, and sadly aren't known as well today as they should be. He never wrote a one sided character, and their flaws made them so easy to love, and then hate, and then understand. He made me cry in every single one of his books.  Four Fires is still one of the most intense and wonderful books I've ever read, and every time I reread it I feel like I'm going home to visit my family. April Fool's Day was the most honest autobiography I've ever read, and it broke my heart at how hard on himself Courtenay was, but at the same time I can't help but feel proud that he never took the easy way out, he owned up to his actions. Bryce Courtenay is the kind of man who you need to read up on. He's larger than any of his books, and has lived a life that has been weaved into many of his stories which perhaps is why they live on the page so vividly.

Australia lost a favourite author and adopted son yesterday, he will be missed.


  1. I've never read this author, though I have a vague and passing familiarity with his works. It sounds like the world will be the poorer for his passing. Thanks for such an impassioned take on his books!

    1. He's best known for Power of One, and while that book is fantastic, I am constantly recommending Four Fires. I'm not sure how someone not from Australia will take it (considering a lot has to do with life in Australia after the war and local issues) but it's a remarkable book and one of my as-often-as-possible rereads.



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