Book Review: Me and Rory Macbeath by Richard Beasley
From the Blurb
Adelaide, 1977. It's the year Elvis died, but for twelve-year-old Jake Taylor that doesn't really mean much. His world revolves around school; Rose Avenue, the street where he and his mum Harry live; and the courthouse where Harry is a barrister. His best friend, Robbie Duncan, lives only a few houses away and for them Christmas Holidays are for cricket, tennis and swimming at the pool or the beach. But then Rory Macbeath movies into the red brick house at the end of the avenue and everything starts to change.
They're calling this book the next Jasper Jones. Okay, so they're not, they're saying that you'll love it if you loved JJ, which I did, but still... Having been told that I was both itching to read this book in case they were right, and apprehensive about reading it in case it was dismally disappointing. The truth lay somewhere in the middle. Me and Rory Macbeath does not have the complexity to its layering that Jasper Jones does. If you know much about my thesis, you'll know that I think there is a quite diverse set of cultural myths at play in JJ, whereas Me and Rory Macbeath could probably have happened anywhere in the world. This is not to it's detriment, it's just a fact. I think what the two have in common is their nostalgia. There's a clear longing in the pages (in fact it's often stated) for the days of summer street cricket, shoelessness and lake fishing. And these scenes are done lovingly, if a little passively in their execution.
Beasley's characterisation of his main trio of characters, Harry, Jake and Rory is particularly strong but I felt there were a number of supporting characters who kind of doubled up: Mr Nixon and Mr Kincaid, Mrs Williams the second and Mrs Macbeath, Robbie and pretty much every other kid mentioned. I felt like there was a lot of potential for something to happen, for example for Mr Nixon to take Jake under his wing and become a grandfather figure, and in a way, the scenes in which Mr Nixon began sitting with Jake in court I think were an attempt at this, but the opportunities were largely wasted. I was also upset to see that the blossoming possibility of first love between Lucy and Jake was allowed to fade out at the end of the story.
This book really shone in the courtroom scenes, no surprises there... I am pretty sure Beasley was/is a lawyer, but correct me if I'm wrong. The sheer detail of the cases, the lawyer's questions, were enthralling. I was drawn in by the arguing of a minor sub-plot case in which a small child called Adam cut his eye open on a fence. These were the funniest scenes, with Jake translating the subtle barbs passed between the lawyers.
All in all, it was a slow book to get into, but quite entertaining, and I give it a three out of five.