Corporal Hitler’s Pistol by Tom Keneally

Published: 2021 1. First lines 2. Cover: Penguin 3. Barsbys, Kempsey [No known copyright restrictions] Photo from Macleay Historical Society Inc. 4. 1930s fashion [CC BY-NC 2.0] via Flickr

Flo Honeywood is certain that an Aboriginal boy she has seen in town looks like her husband, and she sets out to find the truth about the boy’s paternity. The author weaves together several narrative strands, one being Flo’s story, another being a WW1 veteran who breaks down after seeing a newsreel picture of Hitler, and another being the story of an Irish rebel connected to the IRA. Dramatic events occur – a murder; a mental breakdown; infidelities; racist, sexist and homophobic behaviour – and many of the town’s characters are implicated.

“Everyone was a beginner at death.”

A book by Thomas Keneally rarely disappoints and this one is no exception. His trademark tightly-structured narrative, and his ability to bring characters vividly to life are there, but the Sydney Morning Herald notes that “it is not a major addition to Keneally’s voluminous oeuvre (and it must be said that the prose is rather slapdash at times), but the plot huffs along agreeably enough, the characters are well drawn”. The Guardian calls it a “compelling blend of historical crime thriller and intricate portrait of an Australian rural community”.

Quotes:

”Kempsey had suited Flo – till she saw the boy.”

”Saturday night routine of the pictures. Reserved seats at the Victoria. There, Chicken Dalton, wearing his tails, played the piano and musical contraption in the well beneath the stage.


Above: Audio Sample from Audible

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