Pedro Jones is lost. Abandoned by his father and forced into commission housing with his Filipino immigrant mother, the future seems bleak. But when Pedro meets the 'mad' street busker, Johnny Lazzaro, and gets involved with the East Timor freedom movement, life takes an unexpected detour. James Laidler deftly crafts a cast of vivid characters in this gritty story of self discovery, justice and belonging.
the taste of apple is the story of Pedro. It opens to him standing on the roof of his council flat home in Richmond, looking out over the city, reminding himself to breathe.
‘I take my heart
and nail it
to the Southern Cross.’
It is a heartfelt novel, raw and painful. Pedro’s left to live with his Filipino-bride, devout Catholic, enigmatic mother, after his father leaves one Christmas, in a building full of down-and-outs, refugees and junkies. He’s a boy trying to become a man. the taste of apple travels a long path, covers a lot of terrain from Heidelberg to Richmond to Colac – and looks into the people and the events of East Timor, a country so close to Australia and so seldom in our collective consciousness. Pedro becomes involved in a local community group who work to raise awareness of what has happened in East Timor through the crazy busker Johnny, whose mother was killed in the 1991 Dili massacre and whose father remains imprisoned in a Timor gaol and who opens Pedro's eyes to the world around him.
the taste of apple lies somewhere between a traditional verse novel and a typical prose novel. The author, James, calls it ‘poetic prose’. More of the action and events are narrated than I would have expected, and perhaps some of the poems and scenes could have been tighter, but I think this kind of novel help to bridge a reader unused to a verse novel.
The CD, a collaboration between the author and Warrnambool musician Don Stewart, is great - many of the tracks quite beautiful and evocative and it definitely adds to the experience. However, I found it a little tricky, having to ensure I was at home or had my portable listening device* on me in order to read and listen at the same time, providing, or requiring, a different reading experience (ie. not snatching five minutes in the bank line, ten minutes over a sneaky mid-afternoon coffee) than usual.
I really enjoyed reading the taste of apple, primarily for its honesty and emotion. Pedro has such a distinctive voice and the reader is with him, fiercely so, right from the get-go. I love the exploration of social justice, and how – despite the things that come to pass – there’s hope.
the taste of apple is published by Interactive Press, a small independent Australian publisher. you can buy it here.
visit james' website.
Jess from The Tales Compendium has written a very thorough review, I'd really recommend you go have a read.
*iiiiiiiiiDidn't want this to be an advertisement for any fruit companies.