Books, read harder 2017

Read Harder: Colloquial Geography


I’m doing the 2017 Read Harder challenge from Book Riot. For each book I read in  the challenge, I aim to write a short blog post about it

Read: Goodwood Holly Throsby

Task: Read a debut novel

Completed task 2/24

Theres something very true that Holly Throsby captures in her debut novel here, and its something that’s definitely a country town thing: the colloquial geography of the town.

What do I mean by that? Goodwood takes place in a little town in country New South Wales, on the shore of a lake. It’s a small, tight knit community of probably less than 1000 people, and one of the things that I noticed as someone who grew up in country towns was the way that people talk about place.

Every small town has a set of local landmarks that might be impenetrable to someone from out of town, but is known in town. In Goodwood, it’s nicknames like The Wicko, the Bowlo, the Horse, Woody’s- places the locals know and all call by those names. I think what’s unique in country towns about these things is that they’re universal nicknames- everyone knows them, and no one calls them by a different nickname.

Where I grew up, there were any number of these names. The Rollercoaster. Rawady’s deli, which remained so after the titular family sold it. The Pines. Which pub is the Serge, and which one was Puffer’s. These are all locations that any local could pinpoint exactly, but to an outsider always needs explanation. It’s not really a measure to put off outsiders (and in the case of Kapunda, I was that outsider once) but it is a hyperlocal dialect thing that takes adjustment.

I’m not saying cities can’t have local landmarks, or it’s own nicknames. Most people know about the Men in Black on Cross Road, for example, or even something as famous as the Malls Balls (actually entitled The Spheres) which everyone knows. What a city doesn’t have is a universal application of these names, nor a consistency- the pub that my friends sometimes call the Avocado is not universally referred to as such, and the lack of assumed knowledge of these nicknames means that you have to always clarify these things. Individual suburbs and schools and subcommunities in cities may very well have their own versions of these things, but that’s kinda the point- a place in a city sits at a venn diagram of multiple possible titles.

It’s a texture of place, a little detail that feels super true. Throsby apparently grew up in a suburb, but she’s done her homework.

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