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Longlisted for the 2018 Stella Prize
'It is quite a feat to write characters with such nuance . . . in harnessing her storytelling facility to expose the flaws in the system with what is becoming trademark empathy, Laguna is an author proving the novel is a crucial document of the times.' – Louise Swinn, The Australian
I never had words to ask anybody the questions, so I never had the answers. Abandoned by her mother and only occasionally visited by her secretive father, Justine is raised by her pop, a man tormented by visions of the Burma Railway. Justine finds sanctuary in Pop's chooks and The Choke, where the banks of the Murray River are so narrow it seems they might touch - a place of staggering natural beauty. But the river can't protect Justine from danger. Her father is a criminal, and the world he exposes her to can be lethal.
Justine is overlooked and underestimated, a shy and often silent observer of her chaotic world. She learns that she has to make sense of it on her own. She has to find ways to survive so much neglect. She must hang on to friendship when it comes, she must hide when she has to, and ultimately she must fight back.
The Choke is a brilliant, haunting novel about a child navigating an often dark and uncaring world of male power and violence, in which grown-ups can't be trusted and comfort can only be found in nature. This compassionate and claustrophobic vision of a child in danger and a society in trouble celebrates above all the indomitable nature of the human spirit.
Sofie Laguna, winner of the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award for The Eye of the Sheep, once again shows she is a writer of rare empathy, originality and blazing talent.
Review by Ben Hunter
In The Choke, Sophie Laguna showcases the tremendous empathy we know from her Miles Franklin winning Eye of the Sheep. Justine Lee has been abandoned by her mother and is visited infrequently by her violent and secretive father where she lives on her pop's three acres by the shrinking banks of the Murray River. Voiceless in an unsafe and uncertain world, her's is the life of a girl who fell through the cracks.
This is a heart-breaking read of uncompromising compassion and intimacy. I don't think I've ever read a child's perspective so fully realised in contemporary Australian fiction. A powerful achievement.
engaging life story of a young girl growing up in aversity
The Choke by Sophie Laguna was an interesting and enjoyable read. The storey surrounds a young girl with dyslexia and unable to read who lives with her grand father in a semi-rural location near the Murray river. An almost autobiographical account of her lonely life reveals the lack of parenting skills resulting from her dysfunctional family. While quite disheartening and one feels genuinely sorry for the girl but the story sheds some light into what some young people in our communities possibly go through and how they eventually grow up learning from their own experiences with little or no help from their family.
A wonderful second novel
An extremely well written book and very enjoyable despite the story being about a child so neglected and disadvantaged.
A haunting novel
The author's villains, like all of her characters, are sensitively drawn and terrifyingly real: deadly, damaged men to whom children and women cling in spite of themselves.
I would never buy this book again
This is one of the worst books I have read recently.
It took me a while to get in to the book but I did enjoy it. It was depressing to a degree and one felt the inevitability of the outcome.a
This is the best book I have read in a long while.
This book is everything I expected, couldn't put it down.
A "must read"
The authors incites into her characters will amaze you. Her plots rings true. The situations are true and confronting at times, but every situation is believable and understandable as the characters reveal themselves to the reader. You feel the love behind the hurt and dysfunction.
Fantastic read....highly recommend
Fantasic read best book I have read all year
a brilliant read from a talented author
The Choke is the third adult novel by award-winning Australian author, Sofie Laguna. Ten-year-old Justine Lee has lived with Pop since her mother split when she was just three. Pop loves his chooks and the big man (John Wayne), loves his White Ox rollies and loves Justine too, but he's haunted by what he experienced in Burma, building the Eastern Bullet railway during the war, so his caring for Jussy is somewhat erratic. Eggs are plentiful, but baths and clean clothes less so, and her shoes pinch her toes.
Justine's older half-brothers live with their mum, Relle. All of them wait eagerly for the reappearance of Ray, the father whose mystique only magnifies with each month of absence. The boys vie for scraps of affection, moments of notice, desperate for their father's approval: "Kirk and Steve came over to him. Kirk walked with his chest out, like he was a man with a slingshot, a bow and arrow, and a gun, and he could choose which one he wanted to shoot. Steve was behind him, half hidden, in the cool of Kirk's shadow." And when they receive insults instead of encouragement, they try to hide their dismay.
Jussy finds school difficult: the letters jump around and go backwards. Then she is seated next to the boy everyone avoids, as a punishment. But that has a surprising result: "Michael knew the answer. I looked at him; he looked back at me, his eyes steady, while the rest of him jerked and shook, as if the person pulling the strings was excited."
Laguna splits her tale into two time periods: 1971-72 when Jussy is in primary school; and a few years later, her first year of high school. She captures early seventies rural Victoria and the prevailing social attitudes with consummate ease. The sexual discrimination, disability discrimination, the homophobia, the sexist attitudes that demote women to second class citizens, the forced adoptions, the gun culture: all will strike a chord with readers of a certain vintage.
Laguna's depiction of a ten-year-old's interpretat
ISBN: 9781760297244 ISBN-10: 1760297240 Format:
Number Of Pages: 366 Published: 23rd August 2017 Publisher: Allen & Unwin Country of Publication: AU Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3