What to say about Ironbark? Sprawling comes to mind, but there is an epic quality that cannot be denied. From the beginning, the immensely detailed descriptive passages of localities, people and customs had me believing every word, investing in every character, becoming embroiled in every corner of the plot, sometimes with difficulty, as if I were reading a history book written by an artist.
The research in this book is remarkable and I had a distinct impression that some of it was autobiographical, but that may simply have been the skill of the author leading me up the garden path. Yes, there are elements of Dylan Thomas in there, and some of William Faulkner, in an odd way, but the writing is by turns idiosyncratic and sublime and carries its own impetus, its own stamp.
The downside? A good heavy proofread and edit would benefit this ebook. There is no excuse for formatting, spelling and grammar faults, particularly in a book like Ironbark, which deserves so much better. The occasional glitch is present in every book, but not in such quantity. I almost stopped reading it at one point; only the glorious prose pulled me kicking and screaming through the tangle of errors.
But I'm glad I persisted.
Ironbark is ultimately rewarding. This is storytelling by an ebullient enthusiast for the written word, who perhaps forgets about the niceties in the urge to tell what is a marvellous and compelling story. Not a simple narrative construction, book lovers with intelligence should read this work. I suppose that means I had an excuse not to do so, but trust me, even at my level of comprehension I enjoyed Ironbark enormously and would willingly read it again.