Paul O’Leary: Trouble on the Farm (Boys’ Own) – by Michael Mardel – Review

This is quite a nice, feel good adventurous book on farming, written in present tense to keep you tensed throughout. I like the way the family members worked with one another, which, although at times sounded too good to be realistic, is indeed the way families should be, but seldom are. What good is a family member who is not around when you need him or her? The family in this book works together and stay together not just in good times but even the not-so-good times (“”So I guess we’re staying to fight the fire,” I said.”). In how many houses do you find someone who says to his dad: “Can I help with the painting, Dad?” Not many, I believe, and that is sad. Cooperation makes a family, while non-cooperation breaks it apart.

The dialogs are as realistic as they get; no elaborate or overly long passages, just the way real people talk to one another:

“Good, Paul, now off you go while we have grown-up time,” Mum said.”

There is tension and action throughout; much is implied than said, which is quite skilful on the part of the author, for as they say, our imagination can show us more awful things than other people can.

Fire is a recurring theme in the book. Again, the book offers you plenty of signs to indicate that something ominous is going to happen (I won’t spoil the ending for you):

“Granddad has a truck set up for fire-fighting. It’s really old but I guess it will do the trick if a fire gets too close to our houses. I don’t know how he’ll decide if the fire is on two fronts and coming up the driveways through the grass. ”

“The weather forecast was not good and fires were burning to the east of Melbourne in a coal mine.”

In short, the story is realistic, the atmosphere is as tense as it gets, but the book however, is not totally perfect. Actions start on their own, sometimes without even a beginning! Another thing I did not like is that most of the characters had no real depth. He is doing this, somebody else is doing that, but these characters seem more like animated caricatures rather than real people of flesh and blood. Thankfully, the author managed to give life to these cardboard characters through the use of naturalistic dialog. Be sure to read the story well for you would have to answer a long questionnaire at the end!