This week’s book review is by Nina’s son, Drew. This is a book about a boy growing up in Shepparton in the 1960s and 70s. Youngest of four, born to a lawyer father and an English mother (she a fashion model double for Princess Margaret, no less), Anson was a very naughty boy indeed!
Cheeky, mischievious, manipulative Anson emerges from the pages as part Huckleberry Finn (the Goulburn might as well have been the Mississippi); part Adrian Mole (aged 11 3/4) as an astute observer of childhood life in a regional Victorian city and the characters he describes; part reckless teenage delinquent lucky to survive beyond his teenage years! As he describes in the foreword…’ whatever I did in my fledgling years was of little importance Death or the Kingdom waited regardless. My childhood was always going to end with me being handed a sportscoat and a tie and riding off to a faraway castle called Geelong Grammar’.
As an accomplished Australian writer and Saturday Age columnist (his recent column on young people diving off the Lorne Pier was exemplary) Anson doesn’t pull any punches in describing himself as a boy…’if you meet the little prick here at least you only had to meet retrospectively. He was combative, insidious, dishonest and a vindictive vandal who needed violence visited upon him by someone who knew the line where a kicking turns from altruism to harm’.
Wonderfully crafted, this is a warts and all account of his adventures and high jinks as Anson takes you the reader with him on a journey into his world. You meet his mates and other neighbourhood characters none better than Lucky a ‘returned man’ and a mate of his father. Like many of his digger mates in regional cities across Australia, Lucky was given a fair degree of latitude by the authorities of the day in the years after the war. He needed it the night he ‘dragged’ a tributary of the Goulburn River right in the middle of town and collected tons of fish as a result. His only means of shifting the fishy load was his brand new Mercedes Benz. The boot was filled, then the car itself half way up the windows. To drive, Lucky had to squeeze into his load of fish until just his head was visible and his feet could feel the pedals. The Benz was never the same but apparently Lucky couldn’t have cared less.
Fishy story? Hilarious anyway. There is an awful lot to like about Boyhoodlum. It’s entertaining, funny, poignant in parts. It harks back to a time not very long ago. We didn’t know it then, but to grow up at that time was perhaps the end of a period of innocence and freedom that seems a long way from today’s childhood with its electronic games, tablets, phones and screens. For mine not half as much fun. But then perhaps I’m just showing my age.
Boyhoodlum. Memoirs of a devious childhood.
Author: Anson Cameron
Publisher: Vintage RRP: $34.99