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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little gem
I read this in one sitting and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Ben Rice is a young writer who shows supreme confidence in his ability - most inexperienced writers Write "cleverly," pack their prose with unnecessary description and generally try to impress the reader with their skill as a writer. Rice does none of this. This is a simple tale, simply told,...
Published on 30 Aug 2002

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Better for Children
This is a well meaning novello, but it really is more suited to the younger reader. The characterisation of the main characters are a little patronising. It is a sweet and well intentioned tale, but probably could have been covered in a short story.
Published on 30 May 2010 by JF


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little gem, 30 Aug 2002
By A Customer
I read this in one sitting and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Ben Rice is a young writer who shows supreme confidence in his ability - most inexperienced writers Write "cleverly," pack their prose with unnecessary description and generally try to impress the reader with their skill as a writer. Rice does none of this. This is a simple tale, simply told, through a child's voice and he doesn't beat the reader over the head with subtext and metaphor. This is not to say that Pobby and Dingan is one-dimensional - far from it - it's just that Rice lets the story speak for itself. Ashmol, the young boy through whose eyes the story is told is superbly realised and his observations about the small mining town and its inhabitants are near perfect. With a very few changes to language this could have been marketed as a children's book - although suitable for adults also - and, given its short length I found myself wondering why it wasn't. I fully expect to see a movie based on this lovely novel in the not too distant future - hopefully it will be Australian/British low-budget and avoid Hollywood sentimentality. If you are looking for something that's simultaneously easy to read, thought-provoking and very moving I thoroughly recommend this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A miniature gem, 8 Oct 2000
This review is from: Pobby and Dingan (Hardcover)
Never heard of Ben Rice? This is hardly surprising as 'Pobby and Dingan' is his first published work. It would be easy to bypass this long short story (or short long story) with the peculiar, embarrassingly childish, title. I chanced upon it and loved it!
What is real and what exists only in the imagination? Ashmol Williamson, a young boy living with his parents and sister Kellyanne in an opal mining community in Eastern Australia, has been told countless times by his father that 'there's something in that earth with the name Williamson on it.' Needless to say, the 'something' is taking rather a long time to materialise. Meanwhile, Kellyanne walks around the town of Lightning Ridge with her imaginary friends Pobby and Dingan. Her behaviour exasperates her family but she is treated with indulgent seriousness by the 'older softer folks' who even greet Pobby and Dingan in the street and give them lollipops. Ashmol just thinks his sister is a 'fruit-loop'. Kellyanne's quaintness, and the family's increasing sense of frustration as she persists with her fantasy, are portrayed with gentle humour in the early part of the story. But when Pobby and Dingan are 'lost' and Kellyanne becomes ill, the family hits a crisis.
In 'Pobby and Dingan', Ben Rice has written with confidence and subtlety. Each detail is well-chosen and relevant. Rice has the ability to define character with a few simple references. There is the 'Pommy' mother with her regrets about the privileged life she has left behind in England coupled with her affection for the family and belief in their Aussie way of life. There is the fat funeral director, Mr Dan Dunkley, eyeing up an extraordinary opportunity to get rich quick. We even end up appreciating the personalities of Pobby and Dingan themselves, especially the latter.
However, it is principally Ashmol's narration that makes the story work so well. Rice avoids sentimentality totally by giving Ashmol such a down-to-earth colloquial voice. Ashmol is sometimes an onlooker witnessing unpleasant or amusing adult behaviour; sometimes he takes the initiative. Throughout the twists of the narrative, Ashmol displays maturity, integrity, ingenuity and affection, but each extraordinary plot development, whether he is involved in it or not, is related in the same matter-of-fact tone.
I applaud Rice's decision not to write a longer novel. 'Pobby and Dingan' is as well-crafted and tight as any short story but has a satisfying wholeness about it that is underlined at the end by Ashmol's final comments.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, just perfect, 26 May 2005
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I have read this book several times and bought it for countless people as a present - I just love it. Heart-breakingly sad, genuinely moving, but not in a cringey way at all. The belief that fairy tales come true and that your imaginary friends are real is something we can all identify with. And the twist at the end is staggering.
Admittedly the second story in this book ('Parachutes') is disappointing, but don't let that put you off. 'Pobby And Dingham' may be short, but it's perfectly formed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pobby and Dingan, 12 July 2002
By A Customer
Superb! A beautiful story exploring the depths of a child's imagination and the effects of that on the rest of the family and the community they live in. A beautiful and evocotive ending. Well worth reading. It won't take you long but you'll savour every moment and you'll be left with the haunting vision of the little girl holding 2 lollipops in the vast, almost other- worldly Australian outback. Hope there's more in the pipeline from Ben Rice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A jewell of a book, 20 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Pobby and Dingan (Hardcover)
This story of a boy's confusion and misery as his sister is dying is an 'un-put-downable' read . By turns sad and funny, it describes Ashmol's gradual acceptance of how real his sister's imaginary friends Pobby and Dingan are to her. As real to her as is the huge opal he will find one day to their father. It's hard to believe that Rice didn't grow up in an opal mining community in Australia, his use of an apparently accurate dialect seems so right and the characters he has written so substantial. I enjoyed every word - even when I was weeping.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magical, 7 Jan 2004
Don't let the length of this book put you off. It is short, very short, more of an extended short story, but it is beautifully written, ideal for reading over a cup of tea one afternoon. The writing style is simplistic, which echoes wonderfully the thoughts of the child. It reads like a fairytale for adults, but there is nothing schmaltzy about this book. It is poignant, sad, heart-warming, thought-provoking.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Landmark!, 8 Aug 2002
By A Customer
This book has already received considerable attention but by no means as much as it deserves. In just eighty or so pages Rice displays every hallmark of the sort of literary genius one would be privilleged to encounter just once in a generation. This quiet, persuasive novella promises to shape the future of the Australian novel quite as convincingly as Huck Finn did for its American counterpart. Like Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, Pobby and Dingan contains not a superfluous word. The narrative is masterfully handled and Rice displays that rarest of gifts, the capacity to realise a complete imaginative world. It is the very worst indictment of populist, profit-driven publishing that this work of Chechovian perfection, did not even appear on the Booker prize shortlist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely and amazing, 11 Mar 2004
By 
Jill McIntyre (San Diego, CA United States) - See all my reviews
heartbreakingly beautiful and moving, this book is one of my very favorites. filmic descriptions of down under coupled with truly original characterizations serve the reader well and it all leads to a truly satisfying ending, without a hint of triteness. hope this book gets attention back here in america! rice deserves it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, 26 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Pobby and Dingan (Hardcover)
Without doubt his is an astonishing debut novel that I strongly compel you to rush out and buy today. Its so refreshing to discover such creativity, written in a genre outside that of twenty something writers often pre-occupied with their own city dweller neuroses. Set far, far away, in the real life opal-mining town of Lightning Ridge, New South Wales in contemporary Australia, from the very first words the reader is engaged in a great adventure that is difficult to put down from beginning to end. Revolving around the Williamson family, the story is narrated through the convincingly colloquial voice of our hero Ashmol Williamson, the only son of a weather beaten, hard up (but ever hopeful), tinny swilling opal miner, and his rather too 'good for this town' English wife. Pobby and Dingan are the imaginary friends of Ashmol's eight-year-old sister Kellyane -and they've just gone missing! As his sister begins to wither with worry, Ashmol realizes to put things right he must set out on a dual-purpose quest: To find the imaginary friends and therefore make his sister well again, and in doing so restore the good name of the Williamson family (which has taken a bit of a beating of late). To do this he must rally the whole town, and make them believe that the imaginary friends really do exist.
If you are human, you will be seduced by the fairytale qualities of the narrative, and charmed by the endearing storyline. It is easy to allow all this to hypnotically wash over you, but in doing so you might come away with the impression that this is a kids' book. Far from it! On the surface this might appear to be the case, but dig a little deeper, and you will reveal what is actually a serious piece of literature that explores in many fascinating ways the theme of absence. Ordinarily, absence might be created by a deep sense of loss, and would be articulated with rather grey images and emotions of relentless mournful sorrow. What makes this book so special is that Ben Rice surpasses this predictable definition and shows us that absence touches many aspects of our lives, spiritually and physically. He does this by writing consistently good chapter after chapter of atmospheric scenes full of colour, humour, and some very eccentric local characters. A poet's discipline is at play, and it is true to say that not a single word is wasted on us.
For this reason alone, dismiss spiteful criticism of this novella's length (less than 100 pages and only available in hardback) to say that it ought to be longer is absurd; as ridiculous as the idea of re-building Rachel Whiteread's Turner Prize winning House - The book is what it is, beautifully written, absorbing, moving and perfectly formed. I guarantee that if you buy it you will treasure it forever.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A minor classic?, 18 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Pobby and Dingan (Hardcover)
An outstanding début from Ben Rice, this diminutive tale of imaginary friends set deep in Australia's opal mining country will make you laugh and cry.
Pobby and Dingan is just the right length to read in one sitting and should probably come with a health warning: 'No sleep until you finish it'. The writing is rich and intense; Rice packs more into 90 pages than many a full-length work.
This is a magical, modern fairy tale with real dramatic tension and a terrific cast of eccentrics, which would translate very effectively to the big screen.
In Ashmol Williamson, our young narrator, Rice has managed to sustain a consistent voice throughout. The trick of writing through the voice of a child is notoriously hard to crack. If you didn't know that Rice is a Devon born writer, living in London, you would really think this was the work of an Australian. Care and skill is deployed in getting the local dialect to ring true and there are some lovely poetic descriptions such as Ashmol's thoughts as he cycles out under the night sky:
'I remembered Dad telling me that for each star in the sky there was an opal in the earth, and that opals are hidden from view because they are even prettier than stars and the sight of a whole lot of them would break people's hearts.'
Credit must go to Rice's publishers who have taken the bold step of publishing a single short story between hard covers; expectations of his future work must be high. My advice: buy it now, in its first edition. Here is a writer of sure talent and huge promise. Fair dinkum.
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Pobby and Dingan
Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice (Hardcover - 5 Oct 2000)
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