Overview: Shipton Kingsgate of Riverwood is on a quest for his own special piece of jade, a stone with a long and illustrious history, even as his whole world challenges him to discover the difference between true and false in jade as well as in people’s hearts.
This is a novel written for the love of it, for the joy of writing. The author, Pat McGowan, loves jade and so jade is what he has chosen to write about. ‘I wanted to write about something beautiful and I chose the illustrious object, jade,’ he says.
While this text reads as a novel, its thirty chapters are also a collection of stories about jade, its beauty, its history and its addictive charm. The book itself is much like the box of jade pieces, both carved and rough, which Shipton at home likes to open and fondle from time to time, for the pleasure it brings him.
An odd collection of characters inhabit these pages. Some of them are in Shipton’s own family, plus his neighbours, and his mentor, jade connoisseur, Harbie Throwley who was taught by a blind man to appraise jade.
The book also explores the wonders of the sentence, as per the theories of American critic, William Gass, a man who believes every sentence has a soul. This explains why the pattern of threes is so present in sentences throughout this novel. It is based on the structure of the Chinese character for jade with its three horizontal lines. ‘To write is to celebrate our language, and one way to do this is through innovative sentence design,’ McGowan says.
‘As the reader follows Shipton on his journey, I don’t apologise for the various lists which form part of the text. The lists hold words to savour. This book is a rendition of jade into words, of which even Shipton can never get enough, though of course, he can’t ever rest until he finally has the real thing in his hands,’ he adds.
Link to smashwords ebook version here.
Personal Comments: I enjoy representing the modern Australian environment in words. It wasn’t until this novel, my fifth, that I realised how much into this I really am. Here, Shipton lives in Riverwood, his son lives with his ex-wife in Penrith, there are chapters set in Sydney, Hurstville, Manly, Coogee, Strathfield, Wolloomoolloo, and the roads in between. And a scene set on Sydney Harbour is homage to Kenneth Slessor’s Five Bells. There are also some flashbacks to Shipton’s younger days on the South Island of New Zealand. Here is a story that moves in a familiar setting but I still rank this work as experimental. This is because of the risks I have taken in my sentence structure. I have sought to model parts of my writing on jade itself, a fibrous stringy stone. This is what makes it so strong, and a joy to carve. Another dimension to this is the three horizontal lines that make up the Chinese character of jade, 玉, pronounced yù, so you will see a lot of stringy sentences in three parts, but hey, I want you to enjoy the story. And the language.