The winner of the Miles Franklin award for 2016 is Black Rock White City. A novel telling the story of Jovan and Suzana, two refugees from Sarajevo escaping their horrific past. Now living in Melbourne Jovan works as a cleaner in a hospital where some mysterious and troubling graffiti starts cropping up. This story follows the couple and the people around them as they try and navigate their new lives in Australia and reestablish their relationship, while allowing their past selfs to merge with their current ones.
Patric has an incredibly beautiful writing style. He manages to meld humour with some incredibly deep observations about war and loss. I found myself laughing out loud at times due to these small moments of hilarity, some of which completely demonstrating what it is like to be an Australian. Then there were some passages where he was discussing war, men and the devil and the wording was so eloquent I have marked out the passages to reread because what he has said is such an incredible representation of the essence of war and written with such grace and passion. I fell in love with his words. I loved that Jovan was a poet and lecturer back in Bosnia and enjoyed the moments he found poetry in his daily life. Read this even if you only love beautiful writing, one of the most well-written books I have read this year.
The two main protagonists are complex characters that slowly shed their layers as the novel progresses. Jovan is the strong, silent, gentle giant, choosing to keep his stilted English to converse with those around him. I enjoyed reading his perspective the most as he was a character with several contradictions. There were parts of him I understood and there were parts I did not. All kept my interest in the pages as I was struggling to piece his life together. Suzana was much more mysterious with the reader only reading her perspective late in the novel. Her character has many struggles but is much stronger than you initially give her credit for. I found myself wanting the two of them to find their way back to each other and their former selfs for much of the book. The host of supporting characters are interesting and a few in particular are great caricatures of typical Australians you might find around the place. Again, Patric hits the nail of the head.
The sub-plot of the hospital graffiti artist, or Dr Graffito as Jovan thinks of him, is intriguing and add a great deal of pace to the plot, the beginning in particular. It keeps you on edge to find out what he comes up with next and you spend the novel wondering who could Graffito be? You are eventually rewarded with the reveal in the dying pages. I did find the ending missing a little bit of something? Overall the ending does all tie together and I can see how it received the Miles Franklin award.
I would recommend this book to anyone, there are some beautiful and profound words to be found in these pages. Along with simple laugh out loud moments, mysteries and snatches of everyday life. I give Black Rock White City four of Suzana’s notebooks, slowly forming her novel.