The Mary Smokes Boys

The Mary Smokes Boys

3.49 (113 ratings by Goodreads)
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Grey's mother dies giving birth to his sister Irene and he prays that she will be returned to him so he might protect her from the world as his father did not. This prayer, Grey believes, is answered in his sister Irene. He becomes obsessed with protecting her purity and innocence while befriending the wild boys of the small town of Mary Smokes -- horse-handlers and fox hunters and part-time timber workers -- members of a small, vanishing tribe who find themselves caught between an old relationship with place and a new one that is exemplified by the highway that threatens their town. Holland's kinship with Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses is palpable. The Mary Smokes Boys is heart-rending and unforgettable, a suspenseful story of horse thieves and broken promises, of love and tragedy, of the fragility and grace of small town life, and how one fateful moment can forever alter the course of a life.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 222 pages
  • 140 x 229 x 13mm | 318g
  • English
  • 0989360407
  • 9780989360401
  • 1,093,610

Review quote

Longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award
Shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year
A 2011 Australian Book Review Book of the Year
A 2011 Adelaide Advertiser Book of the Year
A 2011 Readings Book of the Year The Mary Smokes Boys is a gem. The writing is absolutely terrific and the characters distinct and deftly revealed. And the story is a heart wrecker.
--Barry Lopez, Light Action in the Caribbean Patrick Holland's beautiful, beautiful novel is a tale that transports you through its realization of place and its genuinely affecting story of love (for brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers). And yes, for a language as pure and magical as I have read in a long time ... A major work.
--Martin Shaw, Readings Newsletter One of those books, one of those straight-to-the-heart, life-changing books.
--Krissy Kneen, Affection Barely a scene or image is wasted ... He weaves Hemingway's blunt sentences and carved dialogue with the old fashioned storytelling of a folk tale imbued with the dark romance of a Nick Cave ballad.
--Jo Case, The Age PRAISE FOR THE DARKEST LITTLE ROOM: Pulp Curry's TOP 5 CRIME BOOKS OF 2012 A page turning, tightly wound mystery from the author of The Mary Smokes Boys and Riding the Trains in Japan. 'Thriller, love story, a journey of redemption ... this is both a stunning page-turner and an investigation into the dim caverns of the human heart and soul that bears comparison to Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad. Holland's writing is spare, gripping, and unexpectedly flares like the burning of Vietnamese paper money, as the book describes, for the ghosts of the unloved dead. Here is humour, menace and beauty effortlessly combined in a novel of genuine power. Holland is, quite simply, one of the best prose stylists working in Australia today.
--Matthew Condon Tense, troubling and beautifully rendered, this remarkable novel proves that the darkest little room is indeed the human heart. Patrick Holland has joined the ranks of the adventurer novelists and enhanced his growing reputation.
--Michael Robotham In these tumultuous times for publishing, the focus is often on extremely well-established authors or new ones, so it is gratifying to see a select few Australian fiction writers maturing through their second, third and fourth novels. Holland is one of these, and The Darkest Little Room might prove to be a watershed moment in his career. The short 38 chapters are well weighted and cinematic, lending the narrative a relentless pace. The dialogue is tough and curt, the descriptions often achingly beautiful. There are elements of mystery and otherworldliness woven throughout this exciting story but also a sense of gravitas, that what Holland is examining here is important - the appalling treatment of women as sex slaves in Asia and the Western man's complicity in this sordid business. In many ways, The Darkest Little Room is the perfect 21st-century Australian novel, exposing the cruel underbelly of life in the Asia-Pacific region while also managing to be a cracking read.
--Chris Flynn, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald Patrick Holland will be one of Australia's greatest writers of the future. I can't say you heard it here first because everyone is saying it.
--Krissy Kneen, Sunday Mai I read The Darkest Little Room in an enjoyable kind of panic, because by the time I got to page 20, I knew I had to read it in one day or I would have a sleepless night. It is unputdownable ... Which of his other friends can be trusted? Joe's fellow-blackmailer and private investigator Minh Quy, or the Chinese pseudo art-dealer Zhuan with contacts in strange places? Can the reader trust Joe himself when we see where the trajectory of his world-weary cynicism and his vulnerability to love leads him? He can still be shocked by acquiescence to evil, but like any of Graham Greene's characters, he has a moral decline of his own to confront ... This is a wonderful book, destined for the shortlists.
--Lisa Hill, ANZ Lit Lovers A dark and totally original take on one of the standard plots of crime fiction set in Asia: foreigner-falls-for-bargirl-who-ends-up-much-more-than-she-seems. So... Joseph is an Australian journalist living in Saigon with a sideline in blackmailing high profile philanderers who he photographs in compromising situations in brothels. One day a foreign businessman approaches him with a picture of a physically abused but beautiful woman held prisoner in a brothel known as 'the darkest little room'. Before long, Joseph has rescued the woman, who is mysteriously free of any physical wounds, and fallen in love, only to have her snatched back again by the gang of traffickers who bought her to Vietnam. Wonderfully drawn characters, acute and often painful observations about the expatriate condition, a vivid depiction of Vietnam, and a break neck plot make this a mesmerizing read.
--Andrew Nette, Pulp Curry The Darkest Little Room is my first experience with the prose of Aussie author Patrick Holland. His writing has a visceral, uncensored quality - it is as if the reader has been transported to Saigon and can smell the odors in the seedy back alleys; or feel the rain running down their face in the dense jungle ... The Darkest Little Room ... is as gripping and thrilling as it is effortlessly artistic and lyrical. Many titles these days are billed as literary thrillers but this one truly fits that description. There is a poetic quality to both the tale and its telling. As foreshadowed by the book cover art, the imagery within is stark and powerful ...This is a story that lingers long after its conclusion.
--BOOK RATING: The Story 4/5; The Writing 5/5, Booklover Book Reviews There is a directness and spareness to the prose that beautifully balances out the action and the more traditional elements of the plot, and the slow, meditative tension easily calls to mind the dark romance of Greene's The Quiet American. Yet apart from pure mystery, it seems to me that this is a novel very much about what it means to be enamoured with a place you can never truly understand, to be a stranger in a city where you feel yourself to be most bound.
--Jessica Au, Readings PRAISE FOR RIDING THE TRAINS IN JAPAN: TRAVELS IN THE SACRED AND SUPERMODERN EAST: Shortlisted for the 2012 Queensland Literary Awards, Best Nonfiction
Shortlisted for the 2012 Courier Mail People's Choice Award Riding the Trains in Japan succeeds in the difficult task of offering the reader a fresh vision of places and histories, of catching the impression of distant voices and also of offering the kind of insight only acquired through travelling.
--The Australian PRAISE FOR THE SOURCE OF THE SOUND: Winner of the 2010 Walter Scott Price
Shortlisted for the 2011 Steele Rudd Prize Beautiful and bittersweet ... written in tough lean prose, its denouement leaves a lingering impression.
--Sydney Morning Herald PRAISE FOR THE LONG ROAD OF THE JUNKMAILER: Shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book
Winner of the 2005 Queensland Premier's Award, Best Emerging Author A quite brilliant debut.
--The Australian His imagination is unrivaled.
--Good Reading Magazine Quirky, magical, melancholic and utterly readable.
--Bookseller + Publisher
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About Patrick Holland

Patrick Holland is a founding member of the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Association and grew up in outback Queensland, Australia, where he worked as a horseman before moving to Brisbane. He has worked and studied in China and Vietnam and is the author of the travel book, Riding the Trains in Japan: Travels in the Sacred and Supermodern East and the Saigon-based novel The Darkest Little Room, a collection of stories, and The Source of the Sound, which won the Scott Prize and was shortlisted for the Steele Rudd Award. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.
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Rating details

113 ratings
3.49 out of 5 stars
5 20% (23)
4 35% (39)
3 26% (29)
2 12% (14)
1 7% (8)
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