What’s a Barracuda?

barraChristos Tsiolkas is a master storyteller. He tackles big themes, writes interesting characters, and delivers great dialogue but I want to talk about his ability to spin a yarn.

Barracuda is about Danny Kelly, a Melbourne teenager and talented swimmer. Talented enough to win a scholarship to a private high-school. Maybe even talented enough to go to the Olympics. But that would be too simple: boy has talent, boy works hard, boy wins. Linear, clean, but there’s no story there.

Do you like non-sequential story-telling? I usually find it gimmicky and I find it’s often used by writers to add interest to a story they know isn’t very interesting on its own. But Barracuda: every time Tsiolkas moves his reader back and forth in time he adds something. A question you didn’t think to ask. An interaction that changes your perception of a character. A cloud over an event you previously thought joyous. The timelines don’t meet in one climactic event that answers all of your questions. They move past each other, planting further questions, exposing motivations and twisting that would-be linear story-line into a pretzel.

Barracuda is a novel about gender.

Barracuda is a novel about Melbourne.

Barracuda is a novel about Edinburgh.

Barracuda is a novel about the working class.

Barracuda is a novel about the middle class.

Barracuda is a bildungsroman.

Barracuda is a young adult novel.

Barracuda is about sexual identity.

Barracuda is a study in sports psychology.

You will find something to care deeply about in this novel. I promise.

Kind thanks to Crown Publishing’s Blogging for Books program for the review copy of Barracuda.

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