The Rush by Michelle Prak

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

The Rush is, at long last, an outback thriller with backbone. No longer is some suburbanite translated to a property south west of Nowhere, who thinks like a city person armed with a bit of knowledge she has read in some novel located in the corner store. Rather we meet people who can talk sensibly and knowledgeably about life in the bush. They are young and their opinions have yet to be tested but somehow the occasional slip can be forgiven as due to their youth. (A howler keeps showing up in, “The first drops start to fall when Quinn spies the body. With no reception and nothing but an empty road for miles, does she stop to help or keep driving to safety?” (Press Release). A real country-dweller would not think of the alternative.

One of the warmest, most interesting characters is the South American woman called Livia. In the short period she occupies, she makes her presence known. Simple comments like, “It’s a woman thing” meaning women have to be aware of their surroundings, all the time. She is alert and awake to the dangers of travelling alone. No reader will miss the irony of the situation that alters her future.

By contrast, Hayley offers the reader and the writer so much to develop. The reader sees in many ways a silly young girl who has discovered sex, who sees the trip as some sort of reward contingent on others to supply. Quinn has strengths that stand her in good stead when a situation is a familiar one but need to be bolstered by the quiet Andrea who calmly ends a situation that may be very much worsened. The boys are presented as uneducated hicks dependent on the women to make things happen – or so it would appear.

A highly significant character in this book is the setting, whether stricken with  drought or suffused with storm rains.  The weather the traveller meets in remote areas of Australia can kill as quickly as it can stimulate. Hayley and Scott and Joost have no more than an academic knowledge of this fact. Only the enlightened Livia has absorbed the danger. In her case, menace proceeds from elsewhere.

One of the great strengths of this book is its plot. It features a group of friends who, having completed the second year of an accountancy degree, have decided to undertake an adventure. Livia, the Brazilian, is 24, a year or two older than the others. It appears that young adults were out to enjoy what life has to offer. Joost is a Dutchman and good-natured ribbing is made of his ungainliness. Just friends enjoying a trip together… except disease has infected the fruit. No story can exist without a rotten apple.

One could be tempted to argue that this novel is driven by incident. Most novels contain a host of actions that do much to fill out the pages. While this one scores highly on the incident factor, what is much more noticeable, or every bit as noticeable, is the focus placed on character. Joost is a strong but evil man placed in a role for which he is not suited. Scott is a weak individual unsuited for the part he is set to play.

An exciting story, with characters well defined.

The Rush


by Michelle Prak

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 978 176110 820 4

$32.99; 320pp


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