Holly Throsby’s debut novel Goodwood takes readers deep into the heart of an everyday, small rural NSW town, which feels so familiar – whether you grew up in one yourself or have spent time in a small town, certain things are universal. So we thought we’d round up five other fictional Australian small towns worth visiting, where you might feel right at home or be taken somewhere completely new.
Corrigan from Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
Corrigan is a regional mining town in 1960s Western Australia, riven by the usual social fractures along the lines of class, race, gender and sporting preferences. Our hero Charlie Bucktin however is a child and thus perfectly positioned to cross those invisible barriers: his best friends are Vietnamese, indigenous and female, respectively. These outsider perspectives ensure the golden nostalgic sheen of Saturday afternoon cricket games and stealing peaches from the local eccentric never gets too glossy; there is a dark undercurrent to Corrigan, one that comes close to dragging Charlie down with it.
We’re hugely looking forward to seeing how our imagined Corrigan matches up to that depicted in the Jasper Jones movie which will be released early in 2017, and has already received a number of rave reviews!
The delightful tragi-comic farce that is Martin Dean’s life opens here, in the unnamed small town where his father comes to help build a prison. The town itself has the usual share of minor sporting stars (like Martins brother Terry), bullies (like the ones Martin sends Terry after, who end Terry’s sports career), and vindictive gossips (like the ones who turn Martin’s suggestion box idea into a nightmare of anonymous complaints and smears).
It’s all extremely funny, but by the time it has all been burned to the ground (literally!), you’re ready for Martin to move on.
Porpoise Spit from Muriel’s Wedding
I have never understood the way this movie was packaged and marketed as comedy – it is bittersweet at best and absolutely heart-breaking at worst. That said, the funniest scenes are definitely those set in this classic coastal Aussie town, with the viciousness of both the high schoolers and the adults in policing the boundaries of their cliques being held up for ridicule. Plus: fake tans, bogans, Abba, and incredible 80s fashion.
Ah, Bundanyabba, aka ‘The Yabba’. The little mining town with the darkest heart of them all! All there is to do is drink, gamble, hunt, and drink some more; if the heat doesn’t send you mad, the locals will.
Kenneth Cook’s tale of a schoolteacher trapped in The Yabba, too broke to leave (and too drunk to make any sensible decisions) is a nightmarish fever dream of sweat and beer and dust.
Read the book and watch the classic 1971 movie before the new TV adaptation comes out!
Bonus points also go to Kenneth Cook for creating an equally terrifying outback outpost in recently published Fear is the Rider, a near abandoned hotel which offers little respite for some traumatised travellers.
Stark from The Windy Season by Sam Carmody
Somewhere north of Geraldton lies the fictional town of Stark, which lives up to its name in being a bleak fishing port engulfed by a sense of foreboding and crushing claustrophobia. The ocean on the doorstep offers little relief, such power and vastness being full of menace, and as the cover says “There are things out there worse than sharks”.
As a visitor, you’d be wary visiting the one pub in town, near permanent home to the fishermen when not at sea – as a woman you’d be leered at (as a minimum) and as a man you’d most likely be leapt upon.
One of the many things reviewers have praised in The Windy Season is it’s sense of place, and this quote sums it up perfectly:
The Windy Season is powered by a pulsating narrative that’s tensile and muscly in its depiction of a town and fishing culture drenched in alcohol, drugs and machismo, where violence bristles beneath the surface… The Windy Season is evocative and visceral in its place setting.
Goodwood from Goodwood by Holly Throsby
Goodwood offers a charming portrait of country town NSW, and captures small town life beautifully, but this is a community rocked by the disappearances of two very different residents. In small towns it seems like everyone’s lives are out in the open, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any secrets.
With a large cast of characters, each is lovingly depicted and easily differentiated, as are the various shops and residences around the town, some of which you can explore on the map below.
Goodwood is out in shops now, we hope you enjoy your visit! Learn more about the town, find out where you can hear Holly discuss the book, and read an extract on this website.