Brendan Cowell, is a very busy, multi talented guy. He is an actor, writer, scriptwriter and director. How it Feels is his first novel, and he writes very well. The story is about Neil, Nelly to his friends, whose growing up in Cronulla, one of Sydney’s beach suburbs. He loves his friends, but by the end of school the Sutherland Shire is suffocating him, and he decides to go to University in Bathurst, 3 hours drive away. His friends and girl friend feel abandoned by him, and as Nelly goes through his course, the distances between him and those left back in the ‘Shire’ become wider. In some ways I was reminded of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas when reading this, although How it Feels has characters you are able to like, which is not the case in The Slap. But Neil does a lot of things which certainly aren’t likeable, and he manages to hurt plenty of people along the way. There is a lot of sex, drugs and more sex and more drugs, but there is also love, betrayal and fruit whips.
Brendan Cowell grew up in Cronulla and went to Uni in Bathurst, so it is very tempting to think the book is at least partly autobiographical. If it is, I’m impressed he is still here with clearly a lot of braincells left!! I’ve heard it described as ‘blackly comic’. I didn’t find it comical, black or otherwise, but it is moving. It isn’t a cosy read with a cup of tea sort of book, be prepared to be confronted by a contemporary story written by a highly talented Australian man. Paperback, $33