Reviewed by Rod McLary
Faded Yellow by the Winter is the first novel by Melbourne writer Scott Pearce. It is the story of Vic Whelan a farmer living in Henrithvale in northern Victoria with his wife Jane and their two young children. The family lives on the farm once owned by Vic’s father and before him his grandfather.
Henrithvale – as are so many other small country towns across Australia – is under threat. The government has decided to requisition the water leases which are the ‘lifeblood of the town’. To compound the threat, there is talk of the local primary school closing. Offers of buy-outs of the farms are being made and farmers are being pushed to sell their farms. Adding to this external threat is the pressure from the local Growers’ Association and its president Brian Hennan to not concede, to oppose the decision and have it challenged and reversed.
Vic is wedded to Henrithvale and his farm. He grew up on the farm with his parents – his father referred to by Vic only as ‘John’. This at first hints and then later confirms that the father:son relationship was a toxic one marred by violence and deprecation. Vic’s mother was also subjected to the violence which was ignored by those townspeople who knew him as John the star footballer of the local club and president of the Growers’ Association. This is the milieu in which Vic is enmeshed despite its harshness and his troublesome family background.
There is a telling moment after Vic – aged about 12 years-old – learns of his mother’s death and runs to a safe place and ‘cried himself near to breakdown’ . He returns to the house and is pulled aside by Brian Hennan who says to him:
Something you need to understand here. You’ve lost a mother, but that man in there, your father, he has lost a wife … Get in there and give the man some support .
It is clear to the reader – and to Vic – where the town’s loyalties lay. Not with the bereaved twelve-year-old but with the town’s football star and Growers’ Association president.
The title of the book and its cover, as well as illustrations through the book, conjure up images of football which is apposite not least because the local football club – the Henrithvale Maroons – plays a crucial role in the narrative.
But behind this and linking the various narrative arcs together is the core issue – the tension between Vic and Jane as they pull against each other in deciding about their future whether to go or to stay.
The novel explores concept of connection with family, the land and the local community, and the difficulty – or almost the impossibility – of severing those connections. It is written with a keen ear for the Australian vernacular – especially that of the country. There is an authenticity in its story-telling whether of the demise of the town, the football club, the school; or whether of the tension between the town’s residents
Scott Pearce teaches English and Literature at Alia College and lives in Victoria with his family. He holds a PhD from Deakin University and – quite relevant to this novel – is a loyal supporter of the Hawthorn Football Club.
Faded Yellow by the Winter
by Scott Pearce
Reading Sideways Press
ISBN 978 0 6482610 4 9