The Voices

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 September, 2004, 12:00am

The Voices

by Susan Elderkin

Harper Perennial, $116

Susan Elderkin writes the sort of self-conscious prose that impresses literary panels. However, her novel feels too forced. It's set in the savage landscape of Western Australia, where a young boy, Billy Saint, escapes from his miserable family and school life by running wild in the outback. The voices of the title are ghosts Billy hears in his head. These aren't scary creatures. They're quirky spirits who live in trees and have mobile phones and televisions. We learn early on that, as an adult, Billy will end up in a psychiatric ward, although it's not explained how he gets there. Elderkin dangles this question to lure you into reading to the end - a transparent and irritating technique. The best parts of this novel are the descriptions of the parched landscape, but even these are overdone, often smothering Billy's story.


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