Review: The Local Wildlife by Robert Drewe

The Local WildlifeWelcome to the Northern Rivers, where the ‘local wildlife’ can refer to more than just the exotic native fauna.  After a decade spent in this picturesque corner of Australia, home of chocolate-coated women, pythons in the ceiling, online Russian brides, deadly paralysis ticks, and the mysterious Mullumbimby Monster, Robert Drewe wiped the green zinc cream from his face and set down some of the unusual wildlife experiences that the far north coast of New South Wales – home of the world’s greatest variety of ants – has to offer.

Drewe’s trademark gentle wit, acute observational powers and mastery of the English language are all on display in this collection of sketches and anecdotes based on the quirkiness of daily life.  His sharp eye for human foibles – including his own – is tempered with a generosity of spirit.

Tall tales from Australia’s master of the short story – but this time these short, short stories are true.

‘Excuse me, mate,’ he asked the fluorescently green, bespectacled, half-submerged man, who was trying to put pen to paper while sitting in water, flicking ants off his work, and wincing as he shifted his buttock position.  ‘Is that how writers do writing?’

‘Yep.’ I frowned verdantly over my glasses.  ‘It’s a very complicated job.’

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Review

I’ve not read anything by Robert Drewe previously and was curious about The Local Wildlife. It sounded quaint, quirky, and the cover unfortunately made me judge the book.

I use the term unfortunately only due to the old adage of not judging a book by its cover, something you shouldn’t do, but sometimes it can’t be helped. In this case I think the cover matched up with Robert Drewe’s anecdotes, which are full of quirky, quaint, and curious characters. It wasn’t Drewe’s writing that produced chuckles from me, but the antics of those he was commenting on.

People are funny and strange beings. I admit I love to people watch and The Local Wildlife does not disappoint in the kaleidoscope of human activity it showcases. From Russian bride scams, to fruit stealing, to bleeding out of one’s orifices, I got the impression that Drewe took everything in stride and he was able to paint a colourful picture of the folks surrounding him in the Northern Rivers. I now think of Northern New South Wales to be a very fascinating, varied, and engrossing mix of individuals and animals. Yes, animals are included.

I did find my attention straying at times though, it isn’t often I read anecdotes and I found myself not appreciating ones based around facts and figures, but to Drewe’s credit I didn’t feel the urge to skip over any of them. They held my attention and I think Drewe’s use of language when it comes to describing those around him, as well as himself, helped to keep an ongoing interest. Especially when it came to learning about Brendan’s Bride, which came in parts throughout.

I can’t say for certain seeing as I’ve yet to read anything else by Robert Drewe, but I wouldn’t be surprised if fans of his work enjoyed The Local Wildlife.

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