by Alan Duff (Vintage, RRP $38)
Alan Duff has produced another powerful novel in Frederick’s Coat, a story of crime, violence and family.
Duff is know for his compelling and gritty writing, and this book is as moving as the critically acclaimed Once Were Warriors.
On his release from prison, Johno Ryan vows that he will never go back there again but things on the outside aren’t always easy. He’s a single dad, with sole charge of young son, Danny.
Danny isn’t necessarily what Johno would have wanted in a son had he been given the choice – he’s quiet, sensitive, artistic – but nevertheless he is his son, and he loves him.
Johno’s family business is crime and as a young man he continued the family tradition of living outside the law. After getting out of jail, Johno works hard to stay on the straight and narrow and builds a legitimate business while caring for his Danny.
The boy befriends Frederick, a mentally ill homeless man who teaches him poetry. They spend hours together but one twist of fate brings tragedy and Johno’s world comes crashing down.
Violence is a strong thread throughout this book but it’s not as brooding and unrelenting as that shown in Once Were Warriors. Instead, this story of the love between a father and son, and of dealing with revenge, is a little more measured and offers redemption along with the drama.
A recommended read.