On 1 January 1915, ramifications from the First World War, raging half a world away, were felt in Broken Hill, Australia, when in a guerrilla-style military operation, four citizens were killed and seven wounded.It was the annual picnic day in Broken Hill and a thousand citizens were dressed for fun when the only enemy attack to occur on Australian soil during World War I, took them by surprise. Nicholas Shakespeare has turned this little known piece of Australian history into a story for our time.
What critics are saying about Oddfellows:
Riveting… this perfectly articulated story from the byways of the Great War is not about mighty cataclysms, balances of power gone wrong and men dying in trenches. It is a set of accidents in a context capable of becoming fraught in a country town in Australia. English novelist Ford Madox Ford said the death of a mouse by cancer is the sacking of Rome by the Goths. This very sad story, steady, stoical and unrhetorical in the way Nicholas Shakespeare tells it, restores to a human scale what wanton death, suicidal defiance in the name of Allah, explicable grievances and absurd tragedy look like with real human faces. I do not expect to read a more formidable piece of short fiction this year.
The first great novel of the year, Nicholas Shakespeare’s Oddfellows is a sublimely sparse and economically elegant powder keg of a story, detonated by an historical event that resonates explosively a hundred years since… Shakespeare’s shape of the story is sheer craftsmanship and the precision of his prose is a shimmering peak of imagination and imagery.
This slim novella is much more than an historical account. Every character is so beautifully drawn and sketched out, it has the feel of a major novel… Shakespeare’s beautiful, lucid prose makes it a joy to read. I can’t recommend it highly enough. In fact, I reckon, I reckon, I reckon it’s a minor masterpiece.
Shakespeare captures this historical moment beautifully and in elegant prose creates a complex inner life for Rosalind, who is a wonderfully drawn character… It’s a fascinating story, and skilfully told. It is also timely. Not just because it is the centenary of the battle this month, but because the story Shakespeare tells resonates so deeply with current tensions. It is weightier than its length might suggest.”