I first came across Bluebird by Australian author Malcolm Knox after reading Whispering Gums’ review. Although I was tempted by Sue’s review, it was the cover of the book that really sucked me in. The colour of the sand, the cliffs, the water and the man’s hair and sub-burned back reminded me of every beach on the south coast of NSW that I’ve ever set foot on.
The location of this story is as important as any of the characters. Bluebird is a beach town not far out of Sydney, where the long-time locals are hanging on to the past by their fingertips. Gordon, the main character, is a former journo in his fifties who lives in The Lodge, a beach shacked perched on the cliff above Bluebird Beach. Also living at The Lodge is Gordon’s ex-missus Kelly, and their son Ben, along with Gordon’s extraordinarily capable god-daughter, Lou.
Kelly and Gordon should have broken up years ago but didn’t, but after she slept with her old flame and Gordon’s best mate, the aptly nick-named ‘Dog’ at their joint 50th birthday party, their marriage finally came to an end. Unable to live separately due to their lack of finances, Gordon and Kelly moved into The Lodge after Gordon was gifted a share in the property by Kelly’s scheming but unseen step-mother.
Gordon was possibly the most passive person in Australia. He felt himself to be unable to leave Bluebird for a better life up north because of his love for Ben and his need to care for his ageing and difficult parents, but most of all he was hamstrung by his love for Bluebird and The Lodge itself, which was falling apart around them.
Lou, who came to live with Gordon after a murderous incident involving her parents, was determined to help Gordon financially after he used up all of his savings then went into debt trying to keep the Lodge habitable.
None of Gordon’s surfer mates who were all aged in their fifties could afford to live at Bluebird anymore, but they managed to do so by moving into the spare bedrooms of their widowed mothers. Bludgers all of them, but despite their own financial situations and lack of initiative when it come to getting a job, Gordon’s mates did their best to help Gordon out, even though they knew that the developers would eventually replace The Lodge with a McMansion, as had already happened throughout most of the town.
I was amused by the names of Gordon’s surfie mates, Red Cap, Snake, Dog, Cnut (rhymes with Peanut, just in case you were wondering), Chooka and a host of Chooka-alikes, multiple Maccas and a former State Champ whose number of surfing competition wins varied enormously during the telling of the story.
Knox’s snappy writing style and humour reminded me a little of Kathy Lette’s. I enjoyed Bluebird but think an overseas reader might need a translator to understand the Australian slang.
And if that cover doesn’t make an Aussie ex-pat fair dinkum homesick, then nothing will!
My purchase of Bluebird by Malcolm Knox continues my New Year’s resolution for 2022 to buy a book by an Australian author during each month of this year (February).
I purchased this book from Blarney Books in Port Fairy.
You can read Whispering Gums’ review here: