A very different kind of whale book.
Where Moby Dick was an epic tale of adventure and obsession and The North Water a gruesome tale of murder and survival, Rush, Oh! – the debut novel by filmmaker Shirley Barrett – is a romantic comedy.
Set in the NSW south coast town of Eden in 1908, it tells the story of the real-life whaler George “Fearless” Davidson and his family. Narrated by his daughter Mary – who is enamoured by the mysterious John Beck, a former Methodist minister turned not-very-competent whaler who may or may not have some secrets – it’s a grimy comedy of manners, like Jane Austen with blood and blubber.
After spending the previous three weeks in the testosterone-fuelled muck and mire of Melville and McGuire, it’s good to be reminded there are women in the world. However the love story never really takes off: ultimately Rush, Oh! is more about family and coming of age and how people adapt to changing times than it is romance. The comedy too never quite clicks: it’s mildly amusing but never truly funny.
It’s a well-told tale but ultimately small – and a little forgettable.
Next: Queanbeyan’s finest