Title: The Others
Author: Mark Brandi
Publisher: Hachette, Australia, June 2021
The Others is Mark Brandi’s third novel. His first, Wimmera, won the British Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger and was released in 2017. His second, The Rip, was published in 2019. Mark’s shorter work has been published in various publications within Australia. He lives in Melbourne.
The Others is a tormenting story of childhood naivety and trust—almost. A diary, which the young boy keeps, is the narrative to his unusual existence. Jacob, an eleven-year-old boy, lives with his father on an isolated bush property refusing outside contact. His mother died when Jacob was a small child; he has vague memories of her.
Sometimes, Jacob’s father leaves the property without him to collect sparse supplies in a nearby town. He promises to take Jacob with him on one of the next rare visits, but it never happens. He tells Jacob of fleeing the plague and that the outside world is unsafe. The boy’s knowledge consists of what his father has taught him in their home school lessons, often referring to the ‘others’, who can’t be trusted. The boy’s love of animals and his gentle, intuitive nature are woven cleverly into a rather harsh tale.
Jacob learns to tread carefully and watch for signs of his father’s agitation. The boy suspects that something is going on when his father starts to frequent a certain area on the property that he is forbidden from. Jacob eventually follows his father and learns that all is not as it should be.
Mark Brandi has subtly combined the complex issues of child abuse and innocence with mental health. He also subtly identifies the futuristic time frame of the story by using the current pandemic as a past event.
Reading this novel is like riding a bike without brakes, down a long, sloping hill, knowing something is going to happen but unsure of what and when. The tension and truth the writer creates through the voice of a young person is superb and keeps the reader page turning to the very end. The Others is a book worthy of much acclaim.
Review by: Heather Whitford Roche, July 2021
Ballarat Writers Book Review Group