The first thing to say about this book is that it was the winner of the 2016 Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia’s most prestigious literary award. After reading some real disappointers in one of my several bookclubs, I decided to nominate a set book that came with a recommendation.
“Black Rock White City” by A. S. Patrić is about a Serbian refugee named Jovan who is trying to rebuild his life in Australia with his wife Suzana. Working as a cleaner at a hospital in Frankston, Jovan finds himself responsible for cleaning up increasingly disturbing graffiti. Meanwhile, his shared trauma with his wife is carving a chasm between them that’s growing harder and harder to bridge.
This book is exquisitely written. Full of beautiful imagery and observation, Patrić’s debut novel captures the internal struggles of mental health, being a migrant in Australia and, even more topically, being a refugee. This is a book of poetry and explores the effect of words we use (and misuse) on others around us. I really liked the characters in this book, especially Suzana who bravely and unapologetically calls out the things that others let slide. After finishing this book, I’ve been thinking about it for the last day – still trying to unpack it all.
A meditative book with a dark streak, you won’t want to rush this one, but you will definitely want to read it.