A short, simple tale, enjoyable but not entirely satisfying due to a lack of balance in audience and length. The narrator and two other main characters are about 15 years of age: the tone is suited to a younger audience, perhaps 11-12, though a few passages are appropriate for a more mature reader. This lack of equilibrium is also evident in the narrative, which unfolds steadily, then rushes to a climax and resolution in a few pages. The book feels a little like a stretched-out short story, but also hints at a lot of loose ends that demand to be followed through. Perhaps a longer novel would have been more fulfilling?
There is plenty of interest here for the student writer. The use of present tense and first-person narrator is expertly handled, and Disher is a master of location. The reader quickly gains a sense of the harsh mallee conditions, and the quiet desperation of the goldminers. None of the characters are drawn in great detail, partly due to the brevity of the book, and partly because everything is described from the narrator’s point of view. It succeeds as a short rite-of-passage story, despite the misgiving outlined above.