Friday, August 13, 2010

{review} a few right thinking men

Sulari Genill A Few Right Thinking Men (2010)

A Few Right Thinking Men

I'm lucky enough to have been given a signed copy of Sulari Gentill's A Few Right Thinking Men by a friend. I thoroughly enjoyed this book - and why wouldn't I? It's set in my favourite era, it's a crime novel, it's Australian, it's well written and well-researched and it opens a fascinating window into Sydney society of the 1930s. I kept wishing that I'd thought of it!

The hero is Rowland Sinclair, wealthy man-about-town who really just wants to live for his art and forget his social responsibilities. He has thrown his Woollhara mansion open to his poor artist friends - including the talented sculptress for whom he holds a torch - and the group of friends sets out to solve the mystery behind the murder of Rowland's uncle. Was the crime related to Rowland senior's financial interest in a gambling hell? What do the Communists and their opponents the "right thinking men" of the Old and the New Guards have to do with the crime? The narrative travels from Sydney to country New South Wales (amid the "Bunyip aristocracy", a lovely phrase) before culminating in the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the so-called "iron lung" of Depression Sydney. Gentill has picked a very interesting period on which to base her narrative and the historical underpinnings are deftly handed and well explained. It is quite unbelievable how close the New South Wales' Labor government under Jack Lang came to revolution in this era. 

The strength of the setting and characterisation was a happy thing, since the solution to the mystery was not difficult to unmask. One other tiny quibble: this book is quite coy about sex. Maybe I should consider that just a refreshing change (!), but I never got the impression that Rowland, who is such a capable (and right-thinking) man, was particularly passionate. Nevertheless, I loved all the characters and am thoroughly looking forward to the sequel where Gentill can push forward with their development.

Rating: 7/10

If you liked this... I want to re-read D.H. Lawrence's Kangaroo (1923), another novel concerned with Sydney's nationalistic politicking.

I've already posted this image, but it's so lovely here it is again:


"The Bridge in-curve" (1930) 
Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984) 
from the National Gallery of Victoria.

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