Review

Review: Down the Hume

Down the Hume
Down the Hume by Peter Polites

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What grabbed me first about this book was the almost rambling style in which it’s written: it didn’t seem to have structure, or follow any ‘rules of writing’, but without being able to explain why, I was compelled to keep reading to see where the story was taking me.

The opening pages are about people in Bux’s life, with nothing about Bux himself, not even his name, but I somehow learnt more about him this way.

Bux’s disconnection from himself comes alive through passive voice, through lists of actions that make up his day:

Had to put on uniform of scrubs before I started work. Straight into the change room. Almost slipped on shiny powder blue tiles. Put my bag next to the porcelain white toilet that had a plastic black toilet seat. Took off jeans and T-shirt, threw them into the corner next to the open shower.

On the surface, this story is about the eternal search for happiness no matter who you are, but with the added spice of being gay.

At its deeper level, it’s about life in the burbs. Of living in one of the most glamorous cities in the world, but not. That unique combination of utter remoteness and practically-the-capital-of-Australia that is western Sydney.

Halfway through our meal we were interrupted by this young Leb chick. She yelled out my mother’s name three times as she walked past. She was a tall one. Long hair that was straightened. Kept herself well. Wore a Henleys singlet and jeans but held a real Louis Vuitton bag, big enough to fit two severed heads in.

And at it’s deepest it’s the entrenched hopelessness a person can feel when co-dependence and enabling is all around.

Your position was just living, living was limited joy, was what I understood from her.

Polites greatest strength may be in his ability to paint vivid pictures with minimal exposition. There should be more of this in Australian writing: you know who we are; we don’t need to explain ourselves or subvert our culture.

I admit I was lost in the local references and customs, especially the Greek words, but never dangerously so. It added to my joy that some things got to stay secret from me, an outsider, an intruder.

One of my favourite concepts was that of Bux’s vivid and self-flagellating imagination about what was happening around him, about possible outcomes to actions. Come on – we all do it! Bux is just being honest about it.

And oh the ending! The foreshadowing is subtle, only obvious in hindsight. That’s all I’m going to spoil about it.

I could not put this down (yes, I’ve said it before but it’s true!), even reading while walking to the shops.

Want to understand western Sydney? Read this. Want to understand the human geography that is the Greek diaspora? Read this. Want a cracking good read? You got it – read this.

View all my reviews

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