When his parents decided to move to Geneva just before Dan’s final year of high school, he was given three options – spend a year in Switzerland, board at school, or stay in Sydney with his mother Margot’s much younger black sheep sister, Jacqueline. He opted for the last but, the only child of a very protective mother, he’s far more apprehensive than he thought he’d be.
Jacq, a PhD student at Sydney Uni, lives in a share house with eighteen-year-old Naomi, a “flaxen haired love goddess” who has sex with her unappreciative boyfriend in the room next to his. Dan has only attended single-sex schools, and count on one hand the number of times he’s had a conversation with a girl his age. In an attempt to impress Naomi, he studies a bird book and discovers there are forty eight way of describing the colour of brown birds.
Earls beautifully portrays the journey of a shy young boy toward manhood – Dan becomes more mature, more conscious of those around him, and more discerning, without losing any of his endearing self-awareness or sensitivity. The self-conscious double-guessing dance of adolescence is well captured, and there are some fantastic humorous scenes – I laughed aloud several times during the picnic scene, when Dan is attacked by geese. This was my first venture into Earls’s writing but it won’t be my last. - Alex