John Dale's new book Leaving Suzie Pye is an accessible, intelligent and humorous meander through a life led by a man living in circumstances typical of today. Joe Ray finds himself navigating existence as a single man dealing with relationships, aging parents, alienated siblings, an x wife, and a teenager that without his efforts, as with many divorced parents, could be lost to him. He has for the most part given in to his physical desires which seem to cloud the outcome of all his relationships.
Dale's wonderfully real characters are surrounded with popular culture references, familiar mannerisms and characteristics drawn from real relationships: from Suzie's perimenopausal symptoms and ungrateful teenagers to Joe's jealousy and obsession with what he considers the physical experience that he equates to his need for love and to be loved, which is, at ground level, his blinkered attention to sex. You may find yourself looking over your shoulder wondering if John Dale is there viewing life through a comedic kaleidoscope for you will have met Joe Ray and Suzie Pye somewhere in your life.
Don't be mistaken though, this is no light weight novel. Dale has weaved insightful truths presented humorously, exploring ongoing relationships with parents past that haunt his memories to the point of invasion, a relationship with teenage child that functions best when met on simple terms, and the masked desires of males and females and how they play out in the mind and real life.
John Dale has produced a thoroughly enjoyable work that is as complex as any novel, though this will not be immediately apparent as his gentle prose disguises the undertow of relationships analyzed and his wit will have you smiling if not laughing all the way through.
Dale is the boy next door's Martin Amis and if you read one more book this year make it this one. It will be on my shelf kept for favourites.
John Dale is the author of six books including the best-selling Huckstepp and two crime novels Dark Angel and The Dogs Are Barking, published with Serpents Tail Press in the UK, and a memoir, Wild Life, an investigation into the fatal shooting of his grandfather in 1940s Tasmania. John joined the writing program at UTS in 2000 after completing his Doctorate of Creative Arts for which he was awarded the 1999 Chancellor's Award. His research and teaching areas include narrative fiction, creative non-fiction, the novella and crime narratives. He has been a judge of several major Australian literary awards and his essays, reviews and non-fiction have appeared in a wide variety of journals and newspapers. John has edited two previous anthologies, Out West and , and is editing with Peter Corris, a third anthology on , , to be published by Penguin. His new novel, Leaving Suzie Pye, will also be published by Harper Collins in May 2010.