Book Review: I Had Such Friends, by Meg Gatland-Veness

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Set in a rural Australian town, I Had Such Friends explores isolation, friendship and growing up through the eyes of Hamish Day, son of a cabbage farmer. The novel speaks to both adult and young adult readers by centring around young adults whilst touching upon a number of adult themes.

I Had Such Friends is well written, at times beautifully written with interesting prose such as: “everyone had petered out of the room and casually draped themselves over the school grounds like washing on a line.”

The author invites the reader into Hamish’s quiet, reflective world immediately. Quickly we learn Hamish is one of life’s passengers; driving little in the plot line, at times frustratingly unable to do much more than watch on or walk away. Whilst his voice is refreshingly honest, Hamish is a confusing protagonist who isn’t particularly likeable but who provides a unique point of view, with an unmistakably Australian feel.

The novel explores Hamish’s at times relentlessly bleak reality – which is only occasionally punctuated by a lighter or more humorous moment. This serves the author’s purpose to highlight the isolation and depression felt by Hamish; a realistic depiction of a struggling adolescent’s experience in a small, conservative town.

Themes of mental health, identity and masculinity are also explored throughout the novel. Again, the refreshingly Australian viewpoint allows the reader to consider these themes from a less explored perspective. Other characters do seem to play to a stereotype, such as Martin “the geek” or Annie, “the prettiest girl in school.” Although the author does attempt to further develop these characters, it feels rushed, and most remain one-dimensional.

I Had Such Friends is a thought-provoking novel that, although developing quite slowly, eventually provides many unexpected twists and a surprisingly emotive finale.

Reviewed by Andrea Brunt

Rating out of 10:  7

Distributed by: Pantera Press
Released: August 2018
RRP: $19.99

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Thoughtful

I Had Such Friends is a thought-provoking novel that, although developing quite slowly, eventually provides many unexpected twists and a surprisingly emotive finale.

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