Shortlisted for the 2010 Miles Franklin Award and the 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Award. Winner of the Dobbie Prize.
A stunning first novel from a Melbourne author. The story of the Brown family will wrench at your heart and make you hug those you love ever tighter.
Emmett always had in mind that he was going to make a million for the family and continued to pursue his dream of 'the numbers' that would guarantee a win at the races. It only takes a few disappointments to throw Emmett back to his own abusive childhood in and out of orphanages and he is soon a broken down gambling drunk who terrorises his wife and children. When young Daniel dies - an accident borne of his terror of upsetting his father - everyone, including Emmett, blames him and he spirals further into violence and self-loathing. Bonds formed hiding in hedges at the end of the street whilst waiting for maelstroms to pass are hard to understand, and impossible to break.
Starting at Emmett's funeral and reflecting back, through the two eldest children - Louisa who becomes a journalist and Rob an arborist - the Brown family story is shared. Rob decides that none of the children should ever have children because they too will end up behaving like their father, Jessie agrees with him, but Louisa and Peter have children which bring them great joy. Each of Emmett's children has their own issues to deal with, but somehow, on his passing, each comes to discover that they loved and learnt from their father who when he was at his best, inspired them to look for beauty in life.
THE BOOK OF EMMETT is a novel about hope and love and surviving.
Reading Group Book Questions
“Deborah Forster’s debut novel, THE BOOK OF EMMETT is wonderful ... Immediately engaging, it tells with grace and humour, panache and simplicity the story of a broken family. ... This is a story not of how people are crushed, but the many ways in which they survived. With humour and pain in equal intensity, Forster rips through one family’s search for love and scceptance.”
Jennifer Levasseur, The Sydney Morning Herald
“Beginning with a fractious funeral ceremony on a hellishly hot day in
Melbourne’s west, The Book of Emmett – the first novel by Deborah Forster – patiently and painfully traces the lives to this point of an ordinary family. The father, Emmett Brown, is by turns cruel, capricious and charming. Forster analyses the physical and psychological damage that this combination of qualities causes Emmett’s wife and children, as well as the bonds that they
are compelled to form with each other. The novel’s prose is elegiac. Its scenes of domestic life are jaggedly vivid. Forster has created an insightful anatomy of suburban Australia.”
Judges, 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards
“This is a powerful and emotional debut novel. Forster beautifully portrays the fear and shame experienced by this family but also the love and courage that sustains them.”
Professor Robert Dixon, Chair, Australian Literature, University of Sydney
“The central story is not new: a family growing up under the overwhelming shadow of domestic violence, and the generational legacy that entails. But the inventiveness of the telling, the dark seductiveness of the language, and the prickly complexity of the characters make this most familiar of stories original and surprising.”
Jo Case, The Age
“A first novel of subtle achievement, The Book of Emmett stands out from a flood of tales on domestic abuse. Written with no-nonsense poise and leavened by wry humour, it never shies from the stunting consequences on the lives of those affected of the trauma of emotional and physical violence. Despite this, it is a poignant story of survival with memorable characters – a salute to tenacity and a touching marker of lost potential.”
Miles Franklin Award judges
“ ... a powerful story. In this mature and strangely uplifting book, Forster neither sensationalises nor trivialises the enormity of the pain for those whose childhoods are denied them.”
Mary Philip, The Courier Mail
“ ... the emergence of a significant literary voice ... an author with a promising future.”
Jay Daniel Thompson, ABR
"Brilliant. A story of such gently savage emotional intensity it stays with you long after you've turned the last page."
Susan Duncan, author of Salvation Creek
“Deborah Forster is a writer in a class of her own. When a book makes you breathless with fear and love for the characters, and says a Kombi van "handles like a dog on lino" you know it's wonderful. Deborah Forster has used an angel's phrasebook to make a story that's as beautiful as hope, as real as truth and as Australian as 50-50 cordial and Tic Toc biccies.”
"[The Book of Emmett] is a powerful and emotional debut novel from Deborah Forster which portrays the complex relationships in a broken family. Forster beautifully portrays the fear and shame experienced by this family but also the love and courage that sustains them."
Judges, Nita B Kibble Award
“In an impressive debut novel that vividly evokes Australia in the 1950s and 1960s, the dark, disturbing experiences are illuminated by innocent and happy ones. The children are wonderful and it’s their indomitable spirits that make this book fly.”
Australian Women’s Weekly.
Forster’s debut novel is a powerful and emotional work that begins with the funeral of Emmett, the main protagonist. Forster has written an emotional tale of domestic violence with simple yet engaging language. Set in the western suburbs of Melbourne, where Forster grew up, the novel traces the complex relationships between brothers and sisters and the love and pain that evolves between them in this house of violence. A tragic book in so many ways, this is a great debut novel with haunting characters and an intensity that will move readers.
Melanie Barton is category manager of fiction for Angus & Robertson
Australian Bookseller & Publisher
Place is integral to this moody, evocative first novel: namely, the ‘blasted landscape’ of Footscray. Looming large over the book and all its characters is the title character, Emmett Brown: abused child and abusive father, emotional and eccentric, prone to sudden, violent tempers and (rare) unexpected bouts of volatile tenderness. The Brown children are bonded tight by the shared experience of surviving life under such a father, long after they have grown up and moved out – but never on.
This novel begins and ends with Emmett’s death and the grown childrens’ struggle to reconcile their mixed feelings. In between, we explore the riddle of Emmett, and follow the evolving lives of the Brown clan. Forster’s great achievement is in making this grim material sing – it is not only terrible, but also loving and often wryly entertaining. The glue of the book is the bond between the siblings, which is rendered in all its complexity; the difficult truth of it is the light and shade that colour the portrait of Emmett.
Tony O'Loughlin, friend of Readings
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: April 2009
Publisher: Random House Australia
Dimensions (cm): 19.9 x 13.3 x 2.2
Weight (kg): 0.21